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Stuff

We are surrounded by stuff. Physical property, objects we use. Even the poorest of us have some basic stuff: footwear, clothing. Having possessions is one of the defining characteristics of being human—with the questionable exception of a few animal species that have been observed using ad-hoc tools in the wild, nothing else owns anything (and even the tools used by chimpanzees or crows appear to be spur-of-the-moment constructions, abandoned after their immediate use rather than retained for their future potential).

But where do our priorities lie? I am thinking that there are at least two categories: stuff we pay too little attention to, and stuff we prize too highly. And sometimes there are types of stuff that fall to a greater or lesser extent into both sets ...

Stuff we pay too little attention to:

Our beds. (Bruce Sterling flagged this up in a memorable essay a couple of years ago.) You spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping. Your bed is therefore the single piece of furniture you use the most. Nevertheless, because we're unconscious most of the time while we use them, we tend to discount their importance. It's not just a matter of comfort: poor or interrupted sleep is associated with a variety of medical problems, some of them quite serious. (It doesn't get much more serious than tail-ending a truck on your motorway commute to work because you didn't sleep well, does it?) If you're going to spend on household furniture, it should rationally make sense to spend more on your bed and bedding than on everything in your living room put together, 42" 3D LCD TV set included.

Our chairs. I'm not sure I buy into the argument that our chairs are killing us: what's doing the killing is our working practices, which promote long periods of immobility while seated in cramped or poor conditions. But our chairs certainly aren't helping, and if you use one at work, it's the second piece of furniture you use most of the time. Yet all too often office supply departments buy work chairs strictly on price rather than on ergonomics or fitness for purpose. (Memo to self: investigate new office chairs.)

Stuff we pay too much attention to:

Wrist watches. Once upon a time—not so long ago—the capacity to accurately time was an expensive instrumentation problem. A town or village might have a central clock, in a tower; setting it and keeping it running accurately was a technical task. It became critical for trans-oceanic navigation (and if you want to know why and don't know, you could do worse than read this book), leading up to the invention of the portable chronometer in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; for a long period, portable nautical chronometers were used (frequently being carried by hand) to copy time callibration from the Greenwich observatory to other master clocks around London. By the mid-19th century the vast expansion of railway networks made accurate time-keeping a matter of strategic military importance; and the increased availability of horological skills bought the compact pocket-watch, and then the wrist-watch, within the budget of every gentleman.

But today we're surrounded by clocks—fast, accurate, ubiquitous. Clocks are literally everywhere, inside every computer, cellphone, GPS unit. Young folks today, in many cases, don't wear (have never worn) a wrist-watch, because they're never without a pocket phone. The wrist watch is, in fact, comprehensively obsolete.

Despite its obsolescence, the wrist watch has been reincarnated as an article of jewellery. They're everywhere in the shops around us, not merely accurate quartz-controlled watches (or devices controlled by radio-broadcast time signals) but archaic geared analog devices. The user interface—digits or traditional clock-face—is increasingly embelished, while usability takes a back seat to fashion. At the high end, one-of-a-kind individual works by master horologists sell for six-digit prices.

I'm not mocking the cult of the wrist watch as jewellery (I own a couple myself) but I am, nevertheless, puzzled, if not baffled, at the way an obsolete technological niche has been repurposed as a luxury item.

But.

All of this is leading up to me asking a simple question.

Given the technologies we can foresee arriving within the next decade, and the stuff that's already here, let's look forward 30 years. What everyday items in 30 years time will we not be paying enough attention to? Or continuing to use despite their obsolescence, for purposes radically at odds with their original role?

(My money is on: smartphones, in both categories. Maybe laptops in the former. And rooftop solar panels as a social signaling mechanism about the degree to which their owners are concerned for the environment. Bicycles ...? Toilets ...?)

411 Comments

1:

No doubt you've seen http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android, which could actually be a good idea. I think watches are harder to steal than smartphones (at least in public, open spaces). Having said that I generally find checking the time on my phone easier than my watch (getting phone out versus pulling sleeve up)

2:

Cars.

in thirty years there will still be cars and we'll still be obsessed by them as a culture, but we'll be using them much less in our day to day than now due to all the familiar reasons.

What we won't pay enough attention to will be data storage, since we're already not doing that.

(I actually use my office chair roughly eight hours a day, my bed only six or so, so the chair is more important to me. And who still wears wrist watches?)

3:

TVs in the latter. And maybe cars.

Network health (wired? wireless? both?) and storage reliability in the former.

4:

I still need a wristwatch for work. Checking my phone for the time is a faux pas, because they think I'm checking messages.

Which reminds me of smartphones as being single point of failure - the time I didn't have my charger plugged into the socket properly, my phone battery died over night so not only did my alarm fail but work couldn't phone me to wake me up.

In 30 years, I'm thinking docking stations will be more common as an alarm stereo recharge system, or at least they should be.

5:

The car is of course the obvious example, as Google's much celebrated recent efforts indicate. What's harder to call is whether this will gain the car more or less visibility in attentional terms. On the one hand, the whole round of getting a licence, taking to the road, having the shit scared out of you in a near miss and he like will all be done away with, reducing the experience to getting a train or bus. This might well have the effect of significantly turn the car into a pretty drab functional commodity. On the other hand, the existing fetishisation of the automobile is the closest thing our culture has to phallus worship, and all that libido won't vanish overnight. In this scenario, the wristwatch might well be the paradigm to look at.

6:

Me, I'm hoping we won't need kitchens.

I spend a lot of time buying ingredients and cooking my own food, and probably not doing that great a job of it. I'd be quite happy if I could buy healthy take away food for every meal.

And yes I'm aware some people like cooking. Some people like making their own clothes too. Good for you if you want to have a kitchen, but I don't.

7:

I Hope we're not still charging things up in 30 years. Hopefully most things will be low enough power that they charge from ambient light and/or motion.

8:

My watch is much easier to check than my phone and doesn't contain the same social faux pas as mentioned by Justin Boden.

Also, there's the gendered distinction of pockets. Most clothing for women, especially standard corporate-office-appropriate clothing, has no pockets. Sexism is keeping watches useful; and while I will gladly see the no-pockets convention die, it hasn't yet.

9:

I'll start with things that the average human will be paying less attention to than they possibly should:

- I think private citizen ownership of hand tools will be on the decline, especially tools for repairing cars, appliances and small electronics. Along with that decline I think we'll see "consumer" goods becoming even less repairable than they are today.

- Another thing that's probably a safe bet is the continued decline of home cooking. I think we'll probably see less ownership of speciality cooking tools/appliances, such as bread makers, rice cookers and probably food processors. Alongside that trend we'll see in increase in consumption of prepared foods.

The other question is a lot harder though: What will we still be paying attention to that's far past its prime?

- I think TV-like large displays will still be a status symbol/pissing contest even though we'll be spending a *lot* less time looking at a big screen and a lot more time staring into tablets and/or heads-up displays.

- I think it's safe to guess that there will still be a preocupation with impractically large cars, at least in some parts of the world, but that's hardly surprising.

- For the geeks among us: I bet people will still be clutching favorite keyboards from some era between the 1970s and the 2020s, hoping against hope they can continue to find adapters and/or replacement parts to keep them working.

- And now to get myself burned alive: Books and other physical media will *definitely* be more status symbol then useful tool in another 30 years. Large collections will be a huge status symbol. As books become less necessary, the intellectual and nostalgia value will go through the roof.

Those are all my bets for now. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else has to say.

10:

Pens?

Already fountain pens, etc. are a status symbol, given ubiquitous freebie ballpoints.

Having notebooks, etc. has been decreasing in usefulness in the internet era. Writing stuff on random bits of paper makes them searchable and unfindable (now where are those notes I had on that paper? scribbled on the paper itself? in my research notebook? in the wiki, or on my laptop? a laptop /internet search will find the last two, but not the first).

11:

All of the smart/computer/internet stuff will fade into background, becoming banal and ubiquitous. Some people will wear AR glasses and some don't and only extreme nerds will care why or if those are Google Glasses or some sounterpart. What will be interesting and cool? I don't know, and I would be writing a story about it if I knew already :-)

12:

What will we be paying less attention to? Perhaps each other.

The obvious development on everyone's mind is the adoption of augmented reality glasses and how they in combination with telecoms and cloud computing may drive the desktop paradigm into the history books. I wonder therefore how much people will pay attention to others in their local environment.

Already we see a big decoupling of socialisation from geography (quick question for those of you with grandparents/old parents, how many of their neighbours can they name and how many can you of yours?) and it's a fairly obvious point that the adoption of the internet has made it easier for people to associate with like minds for better or worse. This trend seems likely to continue if interaction with the internet is an overlay to our sensorium. Where this will lead culturally I have no idea.

13:

Firstly, I'd question some of OGH's statements/assumptions.

On a typical work day, I spend about as much time in an "office chair" as in bed. On a weekend I might spend more time in a "lounge chair" than in bed. So let's re-examine my relationships with them:-
Bed - I normally lie on my side, so my basic requirement here is to keep my spine straight in that position. An overly new and/or hard "spring" and/or matress combo will fail every bit as much as a really soft or saggy one.
Office chair - Yes, these are bought on price, but there is a mandated spec that they have to meet: 5 point castor base, adjustable height squab, adjustable rake and height backrest, adjustable height arms. We also get H&S training in how to set these if required.
Buying on price means that we typically have several different designs, so most people (bar a couple of really short or really fat staff) can find one that suits, but we have several different colours of fabric covers!
Lounge chair - This is due for replacement; the planned strategy is to find something I like then sit in the demo model and if it basically fits ok I want you to leave me to read quietly for a couple of hours, ok!

Wristwatch - leaving aside the "I just use my phone lobby" and the "luxury collectable gang" most people I know still wear one outside.

Car - It's easy to say "you don't need one" if you live in a reasonably major UK town or city and don't need to make semi-regular short notice trips to another one or haul large bulks of $something when you do. The last time I was "in town" with my car I returned here with about 10 cu ft of stuff, largely groceries and books, which makes public transport (including air) impractical.

14:

Well, the absence of pockets is compensated by the purse, that's socially acceptable in all contexts... There're nowaday also male-equivalent items, but they're not acceptable in all situations.
There've been many situations where I envied purses a lot... :p

15:

Things we'll pay less attention to:-
Handwriting - I rarely to never hand-write more than a few sentences of notes on a hard copy of a form that someone else filled out on a computer, a couple of signatures, and a few sudukos in a given day. OTOH I've already typed several hundred words on this here blog. Following on from this I'd see writing instruments joining wristwatches in the "cheap utility" or "expensive collectors' piece" realm.

Physical presense people - Why talk to your Wendyball-obcessive work colleages in person when you can meet up with people (like you lot) on-line and talk about stuff that you're interested in instead?

16:

That would be great but is that feasible for a backlit smartphone, one that can function as a flashlight if necessary?

@Hugh, a future without kitchens is not one I want to live in, and I'm not sure it'd be affordable not to have one for low income earners with families.

17:

I HOPE phones / tablets / "smarts" generally will be more UNDERSTANDABLE.

I NEED a new 'phone.
But I haven't the faintest idea where to start - there is literally too much choice.
AND I need to re-set my home computer so that IF I read an e-mail elsewhere - say on my snazzy new phone it ISN'T automatically wiped from the main computer, or never even "seen" there.
Again, I know this can be done, but where do I start?
And there are and will be similar problems in all the chip-dependant technologies and tools we are using in still-increasing numbers.

Cars will become much more utilitarian, with a few exceptions.
Of course mine IS utilitarian, but it's a "special case" even so.

Books - "Hardcopy" books do not suffer from power/battery failure. ANd will hterfore survive well.

Is suspect the killer new technology will be a coming-together of trends already underway, involving the continuing reduction in costs and improvement in efficiency of PV panes and power-generation AND (I'm betting/gambling here) a significant improvement in electrical-energy strorage capacity - I believe the buzzword is "graphenes" isn't it?

The other coming thing will be "almost"-AI, but the horizons for this is/are presently vague.

18:

Bandwidth.

It's already happening --- network connections are becoming so ubiquitous that people just stop thinking about it. We're already getting devices like the Kindle which have prepaid bandwidth that works basically anywhere.

It won't be long before basic wireless internet access, via whatever means happens to be around, will be either free or too cheap to care about.

(On a related note: I have just come back from a holiday in Australia. Driving through western Queensland, there's not much mobile signal, which is strangely isolating to me. But all the service stations sell satellite phones at about $100. Yes, Iridium refuses to die; in the outback they can literally be the difference between life and death. It's a shame that satellite networks are so expensive to build. Iridium is painfully outdated.)

19:

Anything that uses water.

More people means more people that need and will use fresh water.

20:

John: "Books and other physical media will *definitely* be more status symbol then useful tool in another 30 years."

I don't think we need another 30 years; I think we;ve already reached that point. Outside of the occasional coffee-table art book that's attractive simply as a physical artifact, there's no reason other than nostalgia to own paper books today. I bet I'm not the only avid reader who now finds himself with a flat full of useless dead trees. I can't remember the last time I read a paper book from cover to cover; certainly at least a couple of years, and I wouldn't be surprised if I never read one again.

21:

You're right that (in the UK at least and I assume many other countries) there is a minimum spec for computer chairs that must be met. That doesn't stop them buying on budget, with the constraint of "cheapest that doesn't get us in trouble with the law."

Having worked from home, at the computer for a number of years, I initially bought all I could afford - the cheapest chair that met the specs. After breaking it rapidly and having fairly serious back problems I went to a speciality shop and bought a far more expensive chair. Sadly it broke last year after about 9 years of constant use. 9 Years in which I rarely had significant back pain. The original company is no longer trading and no one seems to make chairs like that, and a bespoke one is out of my budget. I did, however, purchase a significantly more expensive than minimum price computer chair with extra twiddles, bells and whistles. It isn't as good at the old one, but is far, far better than the cheap ones I occasionally use when I visit other places. It may never seem like it, but I'm firmly convinced that it's a false economy - save £300 on a cheap chair and I wonder how many work hours you lose with back pain etc. It doesn't take many hours to add up to £300.

Like many here I probably spend as many hours, or more, at the computer as in bed - and in terms of investment I've just bought a new mattress that was, to within a cup of coffee at your favourite coffee bar, the same price as the chair.

Need to muse more on the questions OGH posted though.

22:

Yes, I don't think it's likely to be practical to run anything with significant processing power or display from ambient light. I just checked the figures - according to Apple's specs, my iPad draws about 4 W on average, but its surface area in indoor household lighting would only pick up about 50 mW at most. I can't see that powering anything more functional than a watch.

On the other hand, induction charging may make ubiquitous universal charging stations practical.

23:

I am amused that this post arrived almost simultaneously with my new watch, which is nearly as expensive as my smartphone and at least an order of magnitude more expensive than a perfectly functional Casio F-91

Beds have a particular issue which is rarely addressed — that many people sleep two to a bed and what is good for one sleeper is quite possibly not for the other. I have difficulty getting a good night's sleep on a soft bed, but my wife sleeps badly on a firm one, and we both sleep badly if in separate beds. This means that we usually only sleep well at home, where we have a dual-firmness mattress, one side of which is much much firmer than the other.

You've got to have a pretty with-it hotel to manage that.

As to what the 30 year point is, I'll wait for now and see what others guess.

24:

A purse is not a replacement for a pocket. You have to remember to take it with you, whereas you can never forget a pocket. And when I was working in an office, I always left my bag at my desk, and then I didn't have it in the kitchen when I needed my Swiss army knife. But if you're a woman, even if you're wearing something with pockets, putting that stuff in them creates unsightly bulges. :(

I put up with that for many years, preferring the convenience of having my stuff always at hand. I only changed to putting it in a bag when I slipped with my bicycle on an invisible patch of ice and broke my phone which was in my pocket. After that, I didn't want to put it in my pocket anymore, and since that made me have to carry a purse around anyway, I decided to do away with the bulges of my wallet, keys, and pocket knife as well. But I miss not having them on me at all times.

25:

(off topic sorry) Greg, learn to IMAP and RSS, your email and news status sync probs are solved. Smart phones do it. Enjoy!

26:

"What we won't pay enough attention to will be data storage, since we're already not doing that."

It's more than likely data storage will be something we won't have to pay attention to. It will be something that's effectively obsolete to the end user who has all his data in the cloud.

It will still be an issue for the companies providing that cloud storage but they'll take away the messy business of ensuring backups are made so hardware failure isn't something the customer need be concerned about.

27:

Well, the same applies to storage in the cloud... We're already not paying enough attention to that.

28:

(still off topic) Demon has been telling its customers they're about to get IMAP for months.

Still not here.

Demon stopped being what they were many years ago, probably about the time they were bought out by Thus.

29:

One thing I think will radically change the look of our cities are PV panels everywhere - on roofs, and especially on almost all walls. Cities with black buildings.

30:

I really hope signatures go away soon. I've always thought it was next to useless as a security model, I sign my name so infrequently that no two of my signatures from the last year look alike and whoever I'm signing for these days barely glances at the signature to check it matches my card/documentation, yet a skilled forger could match my signature with very little effort.

Give me a secure way to electronically sign my name and let's reserve signatures for purely artistic purposes like signing greetings cards.

On that same train of thought, the thing we won't be paying enough attention to is security, or rather we'll be in a panic and focusing on the wrong issues, much as we have been for at least the last couple of decades, particular when it comes to making passwords that are hard for humans to remember but easy for computers to crack (oblig. http://xkcd.com/936/).

31:

Yeah, I have a watch on most days (usually not on weekends), and it's easier to check than the phone.

Granted, I do use it even now in front of the monitor, even though the monitor displays the time anyway. Force of habit, I guess.

I remember one time at a party where a friend asked for the time, and I looked at my watch and told him. I then, being somewhat snotty at the time, told him also that there is this wondrous invention that is the wristwatch. He told me that using a mobile phone is just more convenient. I then asked why he asked me, with a watch, instead of looking at his phone.

He gestured at his backpack in the other room and said that his phone is there...

I have my phone in a belt carrier, and it's annoying to dig it out just to check the time.

I know I'm in the minority and as said, I don't carry the watch with me all the time (like I used to). I still don't see me giving it up.

32:

Not given sufficient attention - Lines of communication
This is almost here, with our smart devices gathering email, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets and direct messages, etc and presenting it as one conversation, regardless of platform. I'm sure I'm not the only one who used to have multiple parallel conversations with the same person on different platforms - email and nntp, for instance - but am increasingly seeing platforms being ignored.

Conversations that would reviously have been carried out over a letter, private phone call, text messages or email are increasingly carried on in (semi-)public on Twitter and Facebook. There are some reasons people ought to pay more attention to platforms, like privacy, searchability, and long-term storage. I suspect the world will converge on one protocol and platform.

Given too much attention - handwriting
Fancy gold fountain pens and notebooks handbound in baby mermaid skin? Well, all handwriting. I expect kids will learn to form letters, but soon enough go on to other input methods that are immediately cloudable. Typing, swyping, dictating and others will be much more common methods of input, and I expect to see a separation of the reading and writing skills again.

Actual handwritten letters and notes will be something special and precious, and I foresee a market for calligraphers.

33:

As you probably gathered, I find the "El Cheapo Speciale Chair" entirely adequate. Well, for values of "entirely adequate" that assume the odd back pain which seems to come from task-related tensions are caused by tension rather than the chair anyway.

All I meant to say was that the ECSC was adequate for most of us, and that's why I mentioned outliers existing. When I said "short" I meant "so short that her feet are several inches of the ground with the seat as low as it will go" and "fat" meant "over 50 inch circumference".

Also, sitting here I can see 3 different brands of ECSC, and there are another 3 in the other half of the office. Each of the 4 permanent staff here has "our ECSC" and each of them is a different brand.

I believe what you're saying is true of you but you may be another outlier?

34:

I returned to watches a few years ago after over a decade without one.
My wristwatch now isn't just a pretty face: it's waterproof and self-winding. These are both very useful features for someone who is often outside and away from an electricity socket.

In 30 years' time, I think we might be a great deal more fixated on antiques. I _know_ the UK is already mad about them, but as the analogue age fades into the past and out of living memory, so I think people will be increasingly fascinated with artifacts from Back Then. The difference is more profound than the simple passage of years would suggest, but there'll still be many physical remnants of the previous age around.

In a generation, I think we might be too little focussed on basic skills and generalist knowledge. By then, such knowledge might be the preserve of the survivalists. Just consider the ever-increasing trend towards non-repairing (I could tell a multi-continental story about getting a family heirloom fixed). But that doesn't come under the category of stuff, so I guess it's a little off-topic.

The above assumes that the west retains a degree of prosperity.
Hans Rosling's TED-Talk on trends on population, poverty and living standards is an interesting watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth.html.

35:

Damn, pens! That's the one I was thinking of to go with wrist-watches when I was thinking about this topic a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, pens. Pens are jewellery these days: you can get a functional biro for double-digit pennies, but you can spend a thousand times as much without difficulty (well, other than finding the money and justifying the expense) in any specialist pen shop.

36:

"whereas you can never forget a pocket"

You can, however, forget to put things in the pocket. Especially transferring from pockets of one set of trousers to another.


"with the questionable exception of a few animal species that have been observed using ad-hoc tools in the wild, nothing else owns anything"

I take it you're excluding territory, both claimed and constructed (nests, beaver dams.) Also, cached food like buried squirrel nuts or pika hay harvests.

37:

I'm a watch guy myself. I've owned hundreds and always wear one. Diving-style watches have a significant advantage for me over a cell phone: short term timing. You rotate the indexed bezel and easily time a cake, parking meter or meeting to the minute without having to remember anything.
But I like the technology of timekeeping as well. The book The Longitude that Charlie cites above is excellent. For extreme mechanics geeks there's the late Dr. George Daniels' book Watchmaking. In 400 pages, with exquisite illustrations, it lays out the whole process of designing and fabricating a watch.
I think there will always be some people who for purely functional purposes prefer to have the time on top of their wrist rather than down in their pocket.
I think some people will still cling to physical music media rather than relying solely on compact digital files. The CD will be the last physical audio medium. It should have killed off the LP years ago, yet records are enjoying growth. Debated about why rage on but it boils down to some people like them. I think the same factors will keep CD use alive long past when it's theoretically obsolete.

38:

On beds, I realized ten years ago the same thing: I spend third of my life in it, so I better make it good. I did buy good mattresses (which should be replaced) and I also have a better pillow (which probably should be replaced more often than it is). A proper mattress is joy after sleeping on some old ones on the floor...

In my life I seem to pay less and less attention to the physical TV box. It's in a good position in the living room, but I just use it less and less. It's mostly for DVDs and occasional gaming, but I don't watch even tv series that much, and most of the gaming time still is spent on the PC.

Physical books might be an another thing. I like the things, and haven't yet bought a dedicated ebook reader (nor a tablet), for various reasons, but I have a hard time getting rid of books, little shelf space for new books and little wall space for new shelves. When my problems with ebooks gets solved (and they probably will), I'll probably buy less books and probably try to get rid of the ones I got now.

(Though some of them I will save: the other day I read the Fiend Folio again, the one with the Githyanki cover, and laughed at the monsters - and the memories from the games back then.)

39:

"- And now to get myself burned alive: Books and other physical media will *definitely* be more status symbol then useful tool in another 30 years. Large collections will be a huge status symbol. As books become less necessary, the intellectual and nostalgia value will go through the roof."

Nope, no burning here. In the gadget-obsessed parts of the world, I think that books and the like will go that way within 15 years, not 30, on condition that we get a reader device that is lightweight, low-power, large in terms of display area, colour, and easy to use.

If I could have a colour e-ink device that had a display area of at least A4 size, and which would allow me to flick through a document the way I flick through a real book (so a MUCH better refresh rate than now), I would most likely stop using real books (I would still HAVE them, because there's no way in hell I'm going to digital only - I know just how fragile that is).

But that's some way off yet, especially size and speed - for some reason manufacturers don't care to do large screens, and while refresh rate is being worked on it seems a pretty serious engineering issue. Colour exists already, it just needs refining to a usable (sellable) level.

40:

In 1982 hire much power would it have taken to deliver the computing power of a modern smart phone? I May have been overstaying it with never having to charge but I think it will probably be a case of dropping out onto an induction pad for 10 mins every couple of weeks when it complains rather than the current charge overnight every night.

41:

what's doing the killing is our working practices, which promote long periods of immobility while seated in cramped or poor conditions.

But surely the only alternative is inappropriately extended lifespans for the unmoneyed classes and subsequent collapse of the pension systems of the world? Whereas reducing lifespans to, say, 60, would still allow people to provide their betters with the full benefit of their productivity with the deplorable burden of supporting them when they are aged enough to be useless.

42:

Batteries that charge in minutes (or seconds if the PSU is up to it) rather than hours already exist in the labs.

43:

Metal keys.
I would love to be able to not carry keys - just an open sesame from my RFID implant.

44:

"Or continuing to use despite their obsolescence, for purposes radically at odds with their original role?"

Vacuum tubes for playing or reproducing music. They should already be gone but there's still a consistent market. Digital processing chips can reproduce the transfer function of any analog device, creating the same 'sound'. And silicon is far more efficient and cost effective. Yet solid state has failed to drive out thermionic technology. I think it will be with us for a lot longer just for the novelty and mystique.
And most important, it doesn't matter if vacuum tubes are 'better' or not. Only that some people believe that they are.

45:

Vinyl still here long after the CD is dead

46:

I don't know if you're saying that the CD is dead now, but both physical media still have new releases and wide distribution.
Interestingly, the LP was already 'killed' once. In the early 1980s prerecorded cassette tape sales eclipsed LPs. Then the CD killed off the prerecorded cassette but not the record album.
I'm an audio geek so of course I have turntables, including one that I converted to RF remote control so I can use it with the same convenience as a CD player. But I don't buy new records. I still play my existing collection and occasionally pick up interesting used ones for a dollar or two. I'm agnostic in the audiophile analog vs digital wars. A turntable just gives me access to another 700 or 800 hours of music that I already own. Plus: album covers!

47:

You might like these speakers, but I doubt you could afford them (I can't, even though I own part of the company that makes them!): http://cyfi.uk.com/technical-specs.php

48:

"Outside of the occasional coffee-table art book that's attractive simply as a physical artifact, there's no reason other than nostalgia to own paper books today. "

If you know a site where I can get statistics books as ebooks[1] (e.g., 'Causality', 'Robust Estimation and Hypothesis Testing', 'Practical Text Mining'), I'd appreciate it.


[1] I mean those specific titles; I'm sure that I can get a zillion ebooks for Stat 101, but that's not relevant to me.

49:

OT/ Assigning belongings are a classic technique for anthropomorphising animals (e.g. Tom has a cat basket and milk bowl, Jerry has a bed in a sardine can - with a pillow. There's a reason we root for Jerry other than that he's small). /OT

Things we will take for granted in 30 years:
I think OGH already touched on it in Rule 34, but integrated Public Transport in the truest sense, where there are myriad forms all working off one 'Oyster Card' account, and buying a ticket from Glasgow Airport to my brother's home in Midlothian would integrate options of bus/cab/car -> train/other bus/car/cab -> cab/car/yet another bus/bike/segway v.# (delete as appropriate)in a single booking.
Also, 'smart' clothing materials that function in a host of different ways in different conditions, e.g. can be both warm, cooling, even power-generating for content of pockets, NF antenna boost for mobile comms/data, etc.

Stuff that we will pay too much attention to:
The business suit (i.e. two/three piece with shirt + tie). It will become the reserve of very senior execs, certain high-profile public roles and dandies. It will, of course, benefit from the various smart clothing advances mentioned above, but will be all the more expensive for it... Meanwhile, sales of chinos and oxford shirts will reach previously unimaginable heights. A shame, as a well-tailored business suit is a lot more practical and comfortable than most non-wearers realise. If it's good enough for Vint Cerf...

We're really talking about what will become 'true luxury goods', then, in that their function is obsolete? Prada bags and Church's shoes don't fall in that category then. Nor, I would argue, do cars (ticks that box in truly urban environments only, not suburban or rural).

50:

I think Charlie was talking about tools. I think you've got to go pretty abstract before you can consider a territory as a tool, and at that point you may also be considering the animal's own body as a tool for living.

Non-tool object ownership is not unknown among pet animals, even though it may be no more than a dog's chew toy.

51:

BTW - I'm not disagreeing with the sentiment; I'm hoping to build a digital library over the next few years, but am finding that the selection is limited.

52:

Slightly obvious one but the television. I can't remember the exact figures but anyone under the age of 25 views way less TV than anyone over that. With laptop, tablet, smartphone adoption fewer people bother to sit down and passively watch hours of TV.

How this changes the nature of visual media will be interesting. As one I'd argue that most younger people consume video whilst doing other things, it's quite common for people to stream episodes (not TV channels) in smaller windows whilst working on/browsing other things.

53:

I'm with Ross @37...

I like watches. Look, I know my stupidly expensive clockwork thingy with it's Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres certificate is less accurate than something made by casio out of plastic. But it *isn't* a cheap lump of plastic, it's an engineering marvel, made from tiny bejewelled moving parts, by skilled technicians, mostly by hand, and looked after properly it will last a lifetime, and hopefully join my grandfather's retirement watch, (also Swiss, also a thing of exquisite beauty) which I remember him being presented 40 years ago, and it still works just fine.

Sometimes objects can transcend their function and become desirable because of what they are, rather than what they do. And that isn't just about becoming jewellery - I have zero interest in some bauble that is just *pretty* I feel the same way about old beam engines in Cornish mines, or an aero engines, or victorian weaving machines. I spent ages just looking at the Babbage Difference Engine at the London Science Museum, knowing that my phone could do anything it could, and yet just marvelling at the beauty of the engineering.

But, hey, I'm a geek from a family of engineers, and stuff like this just matters to me

54:

"But surely the only alternative is inappropriately extended lifespans for the unmoneyed classes and subsequent collapse of the pension systems of the world? Whereas reducing lifespans to, say, 60, would still allow people to provide their betters with the full benefit of their productivity with the deplorable burden of supporting them when they are aged enough to be useless. "

Perhaps 'transitioning' them to other purposes at age 60 (or possibly 50; many are economicsally undesirable even then). I seem to recall a film from the 1960's starring Charlton Heston which show such vision.

55:

And, if you don't believe that $animal can decide that $toy is its and no entity other's, you don't know enough people with mutiple pet animals!

56:

Likewise - I particularly like the 50 year old Ingersoll one I'm wearing, because it was given to my father as a present for being Best Man at his best friend's (also my honourary uncle's) wedding.

Tell me how a JPhone can compete with that!!

57:

"AND I need to re-set my home computer so that IF I read an e-mail elsewhere - say on my snazzy new phone it ISN'T automatically wiped from the main computer, or never even "seen" there."

I've just purchased an iPad, and it's working out well. It sinks with my iPhone, and I access mail by web, so that is taken care of.

58:

Who predicted the smartphone 30 years ago? Star Trek had the communicators and tricorder, various SF had similar devices, but a pocket computer growing out of a cell phone? In 1980 there were a lot of people that didn't use cell phones and considered them completely unnecessary. Now many of us consider them essential.

So, in that vein, I propose a 3D scanner/printer device. There will be very high-end devices that handle many materials including metals, and very low-end suitable for plastic prototypes only. Many people will have a middle-ground model suitable for several common types of materials, high and low temperature plastics of several colors perhaps.

Some organization of manufacturers will be doing the RIAA and MPAA tap-dance on piracy of designs. With about the same long-term success. The rest of us engineers will be figuring out how to make a living in the new world as consultants, those that don't want to learn the new way of business will (as always) got into management, product management, or marketing. Backyard hackers will be advertising their services like high-schoolers used to do (and still do) for making websites.

There'll be a chain of cut-rate feedstock providers for home 3D printers sending out spam like I get from click-inks now. A Kinko's clone will spring up for those who don't want to buy their own 3D printer, or want to use a higher-end model with better/more materials.

But mostly, these scanner/printers will become the new microwave of the household: ubiquitous and part of the background of life.

59:

That's pretty interesting. I'm sort of in the speakers business myself.

60:

h4nd @ 25
Could I have that in plain English, please?
And even if I understood the TLA's HOW do I do this - what hoops do I have to jump through.
I'm quite prepared to jump, you understand, but which way?

Dirk @ 29
On all walls with at least a partial SOuth-facing aspect, certainly. And even more on sloping roofs.

and I'm with Mark G @ 53, as well ....

61:

I have a Stuhrling Original Men's 165A.33112 Lifestyle 'Winchester Elite' Skeleton Automatic Watch because watches are doing complicated things, so they should look complicated. Digital watches hide all that complexity inside their circuitry, so they might as well be magic boxes of time.

Another thing I don't like about digital watches is that they create a false sense of accuracy. If someone asks what time it is, you can read 12:34:56 off of your digital watch, but the watch isn't that accurate and in everyday life no two clocks are set to exactly the same time. In fact since it's so hard to synchronize with other people that there's not much point in having a watch that's more accurate than to about the nearest 15 minutes.

In any case it's much less important to be at a meeting place at the right time if you can just phone them up and ask them where they are or tell them you're going to be late.

Watch rant over.

62:

It gets hard to be clear on causes, but the HSE statistics say there were 7.6 Million working days lost in 2010/11 due to musculoskeletal injuries, and typically each case lasted 15 days.

You don't need very many of those in your company at 15 days a time before it's better overall to pay for the more expensive chairs. Someone on minimum wage earns a bit under £750 in 15 days, and costs the employer a bit more than that - but if you spend an extra £300 on a better chair, saving 2.5 such injuries per year of the chairs life is a nice working number.

And, of course, if you're employing a more skilled workforce, those numbers tumble. The average wage is about 2.5X minimum wage... so saving one such injury per year pays for itself.

Of course they're from different budget lines and so on, but you although I'm an outlier in many respects, I suspect the norm is closer to 0.5-1 bursts of back pain per year and the number crunching looks like that's not outrageously expensive in terms of reducing lost days.

63:

I kind of agree about analog vs digital time. For me, time is a continuous quantity and the distance of a hand around a dial is more intuitive than reading digits and thinking "almost noon".
I do have a few digitals but they're the original Seikos from the mid '70s when that was a thing.
Also, luminous hands are just easier to read in the dark because you don't have to push a button and squint at numbers.

64:

digital watches create a false sense of accuracy. If someone asks what time it is, you can read 12:34:56 off of your digital watch, but the watch isn't that accurate and in everyday life no two clocks are set to exactly the same time
To which I respond http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_clock and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRIG .

65:

I have something like those speakers on my desk - a 20 year old hifi repurposed for the computer. We solved the directionality problem by having a 360 degree horn. OTOH, ours cost about $7000 each retail :-(

66:

"Stuff"
Digital Glasses, interfacing with other realities, as you look at the world?
Google are patenting this one, with TEST SAMPLES in semi-public use.
Um.

67:

In 1982 how much power would it have taken to deliver the computing power of a modern smart phone?

That's easy: it couldn't be done at all.

A circa-1982 Cray-1M could peak at 250MFlops, if I remember correctly. And had 2-4 million words of RAM. (One word was 72 bits wide.) Optionally it had an SSD with up to 32 million words of RAM for file storage.

(The bloody thing weighed upwards of 5 tons, and was cooled by running liquid Freon through it. Cost tens of millions of dollars.

A modern iPhone's A5 processor contains a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 cpu and a dual core PowerVR gpu. Clocked at 1GHz. 512Mb of RAM and up to 64Gb of SSD storage. The cpu is superscalar, giving 2.5MIPS/MHz/Core, so it should be capable of pushing through 2.5 billion instructions per second; the PowerVR SGX gpu can do 7.2 GFlops/200MHz, so should be good for up to 48GFlops when running full-tilt in an iPhone 4.

So an iPhone 4 -- the last generation -- is probably capable of delivering roughly 200 times the number of floating point ops/second as the most expensive high-performance Cray-1 variant in 1982, at roughly 1/20,000 the price.

68:

I suspect that black solar paint will be on *every* outside surface because it will be so cheap. I can quite imagine the planning regulation battles being especially fierce. Do we really want to live in towns and cities with every building looking like a black monolith? Or do we want to pay a lot more for our electricity in order to have a pretty urban landscape?

69:

Logan's Run Universe FTW!

70:

I think it's interesting you think the 3d printer will become as ubiquitous as the microwave and yet you haven't bothered to tell me why I would ever want a 3d printer for my household. "Why the devil would I want one?" is a question that presents a significant barrier to their uptake.

71:

Over-focussed - perhaps UK only, but owning your own house. Perhaps the ultimate thing.

I suspect there will be a number of niches too. Bibliophiles, numismatists, philatelists will all be struggling as their e-versions become much more widely accepted. I imagine an RFID debit card implanted - probably with extra functionality like time displays etc. and why not go the whole hog and replace the phone too.

Implanted HUDs/retinal overlays seem unlikely in 30 years, so I'm guessing smart goggles of some kind will be the in thing. I imagine there will be a lot of media, OS and styling wars there but wearing glasses will be cool again!

Underwhelming - big TVs, 3D broadcasts and the like unless someone cracks holographic projection at home.

72:

Wallets.

RFID and its replacements are going to render almost every use for a wallet obsolete, except for its nominal use as a cash-carrier, and even that is stretching it. Wallets will therefore increasingly become items you take out to show you have a wallet. Also, it is something we already tend to pay very little attention to, despite the fact that for many people it is something they sit on all day.

You can see it happening already in popular culture in the movie trailer for "Crazy Stupid Love" (which does not look like a good movie).

73:

The last HSE stats I saw that broke it down further said that most back injuries were actually caused by bad lifting techniques rather than bad seating posture. I don't disagree that better chairs are necessary for some people; it's just that I have enough field experience to know that there's a good chance that most people will be as well or better served by an El Cheapo or a Tightwad as they will by a Costalot.

If you read the rest of my #13 you'll know that I actually advocate trying any chair that you'll use regularly for the length of a typical sit, and office chairs definitely come into that category!

74:

I agree with many of the above comments about watches, and as a watch-lover have one more to add. The amazing thing about a wristwatch is it marks the point where this complex mechanical instrument of measurement that had previously been something you carried or had in your environment became, for all intents and purposes, a part of your person. What is symbolically cooler than that?

75:

I'm not sure whether it fits into your category of "stuff" - but we're going to be both paying more and less attention to the spaces we put our stuff in, which in turn may effect what stuff we put in them.

More folk are moving to urban environments. That's going to put pressure on space. I'm guessing that the move away from extended families occupying a single dwelling that we've seen in the UK (and US?) will happen everywhere else too, which will put more pressure on space. We'll see the floor space people occupy generally move to Tokyo/London/New York densities - which will be a shock to many US folk I imagine.

As money/space pressure increases we'll see the house/flat share lifestyle expand out from just folk in their early twenties. That will mean even less space for "private" stuff as people share common areas and only have their bedrooms, and maybe some work spaces, for "their" stuff.

Because of the lack of space, and the way that many young folks possessions are moving from the physical to the virtual, I think we may see less "stuff" in general.

When I left home at 18 I had hundreds of books and comics, stacks of tapes and records, various nicknacks. Most of them stayed home at that point. As I moved from shared housing, to my own small place, to my own slightly larger place I accumulated more stuff, and imported more of the original from the family home.

In a few years time people leaving home will be able to take almost all of their "stuff" with them since great chunks of it will be on the intertubes. As people spend more time in places with less private space, and invest more of themselves in virtual products, we'll tend to accumulate less physical stuff.

(Which in turn may say interesting things about how the booming self storage industry will look in forty years time as we weird hoarding old-fogies begin to die off.)

I don't think everybody will living in white cubes that just contain a bed, chair, table and their intertube-device-of-choice... but I bet they'll be a *lot* more people closer to that end of the spectrum than they are now. Which is going to drop the general cost of moving. Which is going to have an impact on how often and why people move.

If the maker culture becomes as big as the DIY culture maybe we'll see fewer sheds and garages of tools (again - no space) and more communal work environments like hackspaces.

76:

Para 1 - Also North America (used advisedly) focussed and Japan focussed to the extent that there are multi-generation mortgage products that a mortgagee's grandchildren will eventually pay off there!!

77:

Interesting to note that the "obsolete" items that are still objects of value share a common trait - they are tactile, ceremonial objects. Consider vinyl versus any other audio storage. Select a record from your carefully selected and organized collection, admire the sleeve artwork, carefully slide the record out, place gently on turntable, lift the arm and set gently on the exact spot on the record to hear the song you are interested in. It's like some sort of tea ceremony.

The value you get with these objects, besides social signalling, is probably something along the lines of them inducing a zen state.

78:

I'm curious about how you use books. There are several areas where ebooks and databases are terrible tools compared to codices. These include:

Opening several books at once: A typical display is smaller than a 8.5x11"/A4 page, but one often needs several times that space in several books to do serious research or notetaking.

Size of individual pages: Current displays also force all pages of all books into the same shape and size. Just consider the issue of fold-out colour maps, or a book of photos of art which has pages sized based on the rough proportions of its paintings.

Moving back and forth: Its still easier and quicker to find the index in a paper book than a PDF. The ability to search for keywords in text is fine, but it turns up a lot of rubbish and won't get things which are on the topic but use different wording. Indexing is a skilled job for a reason.

Switching between books: When you have a dozen PDFs, and a dozen text files in two different editors open at once, switching between them is hard (corollerary: setting up for research again after a reboot is painful)

Resolution: Very few displays will show photos as clearly as good print (the typical pixel density per inch of a modern display is -half- that of the cheapest modern printing). This is a fundamental issue with pixels-per-inch which will require a major technological change to overcome; see an IEEE Spectrum article a few years ago.

References: Moving amongst a dozen PDFs, a dozen text tiles in two editors, without opening yet another program by accident is hard. Most screens are too small to load two to four 8.5x11/A4 pages at once, which is a minimum requirement for serious research.

Selection of material: Not as much as you think is online for free, or for a subscription fee, due to bad copyright law and the cost of working out agreements and paying for digitization. If the book you want came out from a small press in 1971 and sold 621 copies, good luck in finding an etext...

Glossability: Its easier to write marginal notes, including any kind of symbol I can imagine, on paper than any digital format I know. This is especially important for foreign-language texts where I need a list of vocabulary and meanings.

Dependency on electricity: This isn't a problem for me, because I'm a city boy. I would not go camping with my first aid manual or map in digital format, even if I had a solar panel to charge an ereader and was confident of having sun.

Many of these will require a technology that doesn't exist yet to solve. In the meantime, more use of two or three big displays at once would help, but that requires money and new office furniture, and gets in the way of books.

79:

And the latest Galaxy has a quad core 1.4 GHz chip, so nearly 3 times the theoretical power. I'd expect Apple's next one to close the gap to that.

I'd love to see a chart of computing power. On one axis, the amount one might find in one's pocket at a particular date. On the other axis, the total amount in the world at a particular date.

Perhaps a project for Randall Munroe.

80:

I'd love to see a chart of computing power. On one axis, the amount one might find in one's pocket at a particular date. On the other axis, the total amount in the world at a particular date.
Can I propose a third axis of "actual importance of calculations being done"? I suspect this needs to be a log scale in order to fit "cracking Enigma codes" and "playing Angry Birds" onto the same scale!

81:

"Why the devil would I want one?"
People used to say that about computers.
The real question is what it would take for 3D printers to become as ubiquitous as computers. The answer is probably, at a minimum, being able to print very high strength metal objects and/or electronics.

82:

Or something totally prosaic, such as being able to print detailed model kits rather than having to go to the shop and hope they've actually got the 1:48th AirTaHaseFuj Super Gripen 3000 in stock.

83:

Who wears a wrist watch?

I suspect the stats are skewed towards the people who carry purses or keep their phone in a deep pocket. For those folks checking the time on their phone isn't all that convenient. Which in many cultures tends to be women more than men.

84:

When will telling time on an analog 12 hour clock face become a rare art?

I made a deal with my kids when they were about 5 or 6 that I'd buy them a watch (anything $20 or less at a Target around 15 years ago) when they could tell time on the kitchen clock. On demand. Both learned fairly quickly.

But I wonder how many 20 somethings can read an old style clock? And in 20 years how many?

And if you can't tell time on the old clocks do you really understand the concept of "quarter till 3"?

85:

A friend has a graphite composites fabrication shop and uses 3D scanning and printing. He's able to scan a digital model off of a physical part, modify it with CAD software and print a mold or model to produce it in graphite fiber. His gear is custom and costly but there are people pushing hard to bring the buy-in down to hobbyist fabber levels. As it stands, there are several commercial fabbers who will do small batches by 'mail order'. Resolution is an issue, but as with every other manufacturing technology designs are evolving to work around the limitations.

86:

Being able to print high strength metal objects is a done deal -- if you have $250,000 and up to spend on your printer. (Sintered titanium 3D printing is already here; the folks who make the printer for that one have landed a lucrative contract for making sub-assemblies for the F-35 fighter, which will probably underwrite a lot of the further development costs. I don't think it's going to be cheap even when it's fully productized, though -- anything that runs on powdered titanium and involves laser sintering is energy intensive.)

Printing electronics ... well, maybe. I expect it to be possible to print circuit boards, and populate them with cassette-loaded basic components up to and including FPGAs, but they're not going to be as compact and efficient, not to mention as cheap, as a factory mass-produced device.

87:

Charlie: "with the questionable exception of a few animal species that have been observed using ad-hoc tools in the wild, nothing else owns anything"

Damien: "I take it you're excluding territory, both claimed and constructed (nests, beaver dams.) Also, cached food like buried squirrel nuts or pika hay harvests."

Nests are constructed, not the same as territory at all.

And ther eare other things that animals "own" bower birds and various crows decorate their envoronment with shiny things and object if someone else tries to take them away. There are crabs that will fight over items they use for camouflage.

I'm pretty sure dung beetles own their balls of dung.

88:

"When will telling time on an analog 12 hour clock face become a rare art?"

I was amazed to learn that there were kids who never learned hands-on-face time keeping. Preferences aside, it just seemed as essential as tying shoes and I never expected analog time to go obsolete. I doubt that will ever completely happen but there may be more and more young people for whom a clock face is no more intuitive than a dial telephone.
Numerous studies have been done of different ways to display a single piece of changing data. One military group found that a 2" black dial with a 3/4" white hand was far easier to read quickly at a glance than a digital display and much less likely to be misinterpreted.

89:

KEEP ...

"Art" - Art of any type will become increasingly important and kept because of its emotional and potential financial significance. And while 'art' is available in digital format, most art is still 'physical'.

Seeds - As an amateur gardener, I harvest/swap a couple of varieties of seeds. Started this a few years ago, originally because I couldn't always get my favorites, and more recently because increasingly more 'annual flowering' plant seeds are GMO'd to be terminal -- that is, not produce seeds. (Several fellow amateur gardeners relate having the same experience.)

House/home infrastructure -- more attention will continue to be paid to the innards of a residence/house. This means that homes are likelier to become move-in ready with only a minimum of soft furnishings needed for comfort, personal style, etc.

TOSS ...
Sheet music -- Orchestras/symphonies will switch to tablets from sheet music thus saving on paper, batteries and space (i.e., cumbersome music stands).

Sheetrock walls ...Not sure that plain walls will ever go out of style, but I could use more storage, therefore would like multifunctional walls. That is, walls of modular built-ins which are fantastic for organizing life and saving space. (AFAIK, only boat architects currently design walls worth having.) Modular walls would do away with a lot of other less functional and clunkier furniture.


WHO KNOWS ...?

3-D Printers ... To fans of this technology, please explain what this technology would be capable of producing/substituting... as well as the trade-offs, i.e., power consumption, raw materials requirements, etc. The closest to concrete real-life application that I've read is that - apart from printed circuits -- Jay Leno now uses a 3D printer to make parts for his antique cars. I don't see myself making circuits or auto parts. On the other hand, 3D printing is being plugged very, very hard by several 'stock/investment advisers/experts' - the same 'experts' who ignored wind/solar power - as a magic box/handwavium that can produce virtually anything. So to the 3D printer fans visiting Charlie's Blog ... please educate us, and prove it!

90:

"And rooftop solar panels as a social signaling mechanism about the degree to which their owners are concerned for the environment."

Indeed, this is already occurring. I refer you to the episode of Freakenomics Radio entitled "Show and Yell" that gets into the social signalling motivation behind things like Prius ownership and Solar Panels on houses (including instances where the home owner demanded the installer place the panels on the side of the house facing the street, despite that being the side that receives the least sunlight).

91:

it just seemed as essential as tying shoes

In the US Velcro straps are nearly universal for small kids shoes. And school teachers will throw a fit if you don't have them and your grade school aged kids cannot tie their own shoes.

Numerous studies have been done of different ways to display a single piece of changing data. One military group found that a 2" black dial with a 3/4" white hand was far easier to read quickly at a glance than a digital display and much less likely to be misinterpreted.

Good analog always beats digital if you need to quickly tell the status of something. Digital wins when you need to record individual points of data. At the nuclear fuel refinement plant where my father worked they went on a campaign in the 70s to switch from analog to digital. This is in a control room with maybe 1000 to 2000 dials. The stopped replacing the wall analogs when the operators pointed out that it took many times longer to record what was going on with the digital and notice problems. With the analog they could "see" the board and tell when things were not right. And for the period recording of readings they just looked for the ones indicators not where expected and noted those. Of course I'm sure now they have flat panel displays and the data recording is done by computers.

92:

TOSS ...
Sheet music -- Orchestras/symphonies will switch to tablets from sheet music thus saving on paper, batteries and space (i.e., cumbersome music stands).

Sorry, wrong. At least until you can write notes on the tablet score, get it to run on less than no electricity (dead tree sheet music doesn't have batteries) and come up with a way of supporting it at a convenient height for the player that isn't a music stand.

93:

My feeling on the OP - too much attention will be paid to things that the owner thinks makes their house look pretty/fashionable/saleable - same as now. There are people who pay more for their curtains than their chairs.

Too little to the some of the things that make houses livable in. Why don't ordinary houses and flats have easy access to the underfloor spaces where the plumbing and wiring goes? Why are kitchens almost universally too small, plug sockets too few and in inconvenient places, windows in the wrong place (and all too often unopenable), why are there irritating steps up to doors, why is there inadequate ventilation, in all too many new huses as well as old? Why do so many new houses and flats turn their backs on the street and have blank walls facing outwards? (when we know that actually makes them more susceptibale to burglary, niot less) Probably because builders put in what makes them look saleable, not what makes them more liveable.

Watches? I can't remember when I last wore a watch. Despite all this talk of pockets and purses it is the case that effectively everybody between the age of 6 and 60 carries a phone or mobile computing device pretty much everywhere now. As for consulting a phone being a faux pas at work, its not where I work now, and it wasn't where I used to work before, and its hard to imagine many people much under the age of 35 even understanding that it could be. A ban in phones is unenforceable in most workplaces.

Wallets? I'm confused as to why RFID and credit/debit cards would replace them. My wallet is the place I *keep* my cards. That's what its for.

Books? I suspect they will survive. They will certainly outlast music recordings on disks. I still buy books, and others must too because we still have bookshops. But what I quaintly think of as "record shops" are dying. Vinyl has gone except for collectors and snobs, CDs are almost gone, DVD will drag on for ten years yet, just, and it won't be replaced by BluRay or any other medium that depends on moving parts. All will be download and solid state.

Tentative prediction: the first large record shop in London was HMV on Oxford street. In a couple of years it will be the last one. The mass market for recorded music or video on disk won't outlast 2015 in rich countries.

94:

Dirk: "One thing I think will radically change the look of our cities are PV panels everywhere - on roofs, and especially on almost all walls. Cities with black buildings."

No. Not in city centres anyway. In high-density cities, outside the coldest climates, disposing of heat wastes more energy than buildings can generate. If you use air conditioning for more than a few weeks a year then passively cooled buildings will save more energy than PV woudl generate. And even in London large offices are often airconned twelve months of the year.

So excpect greener buildings - literally greener, with vergetation on the outside. Cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Expect smarter buildings, whose exposed surfaces automatically become matt, reflective, or transparent in different circumstances. Expect all sorts of clever blinds and mirrors and shields.

Expect small buildings to become more massive in order to improve thermal inertia - so an end to frame-and-cladding and a return to masonry (which in Britian and much of the the rest of Northern Europe we sensibly never abandoned)

95:

Representing time as a point on a circle is OLDER THAN BABYLON (Sumerians who gave us 360 degrees in a circle and 360 seconds in an hour). The idea that analogue readouts will go out of fashion is absurd: basic computer readouts that can only display digital are the dodo here, not the minimalist and popular design of two hands on a clock face. I'm sure you could find a twenty-year-old who can't read the time from an analogue display, but it's a dirty secret they'd keep to themselves for fear of being laughed out of their social group. I mean, come on, not everything since before 1982 is a rare and dying art.

96:

Sure they said that about the computer but for the longest time they were right, it was only of any use to enthusiasts. And it only started to become useful for households when vendors were able to answer the question, "What the devil would I do with it?"

It's a legitimate question which should be effortless to answer if the 3D printer is expected to take over the market effortlessly.

For example, what do I want with a circuit-board factory in my kitchen? What sort of electronics would I want to print that I couldn't buy cheaply from a dedicated supplier? (Which would mean not having to fuss around with finding a capable 3D printer, sourcing the raw materials for its use and locating the relevant designs to make the thing I need -- assuming those designs give me a product that isn't amateurish and crappy.)

97:

Another interesting note on the physical musical media thing and the vinyl resurgence -- there's an interesting phenomenon I've noticed on the independent music scene around me:

Two competing phenomena are at play. The first is that for actual listening, the medium is of very little importance. For anyone who still buys CDs, they're likely to stick it in their CD drive once and only once, to rip the tracks to a hard drive.

The second phenomenon is that, in the intimate world of small and independent music, particularly in a live setting, a lot of people want a physical artefact.

The thing is, with the cheapness of digital delivery, you can totally separate the two. The physical medium you buy doesn't need to be the vessel for getting those tracks onto your PC. And as physical artefacts go, a vinyl LP is so much cooler than a CD; even beyond the hipster nostalgia value, it's just more conducive to the role -- the LP gives much more room for album art and liner notes and whatnot (there's a reason you've never seen a framed jewel case). So in the past few years I've seen more and more artists doing the "LP with a little slip of paper with a redeem code" model, at least here on the Seattle scene.

98:

Somebody modeled no retiree world as an art project in SimCity 3000. Link goes to short interview, and video:

http://www.vice.com/read/the-totalitarian-buddhist-who-beat-sim-city

99:

The tablet 'music stands' would be slim height-adjustable pull-out poles plugged directly into the building's electrical system.

I'm using 'tablet' as a catch-all term for any video display. Note-making would be the same as on any ereader, i.e. just use the attached stylus. The notes and music would be stored centrally (cloud) therefore accessible from home, in the touring bus, etc.

100:

A functional biro can be had for less than a dollar, for some values of functional. I splashed out a bit to get a non-disposable pen, which fits better in the hand, with more satisfying weight, and writes far more smoothly.

I'm a notorious cheapskate but some things are worth the extra dosh, especially when best practices require keeping logbooks.

101:

I've even found a vendor who will only sell you a cassette tape (and a digital download coupon with the delivery). Baldy Longhair Records, based out of New Jersey. Works for me: my car only has a tape deck.

baldylonghair.com/

102:

they tried to ban us from using mobile phones in our factory.
( we make car seats,, ooooh, exciting!)
they told us that "the mobile phone signal could make the airbags in the seats go off"
they did this with straight faces too

103:

'Disposing of heat' ... basically, aren't we talking of a better energy conversion process here?

What I'd like to see is some method that will enable me to convert/divert energy into whatever form/appliance I need. Homes/offices/industry are using more not less electronic gadgetry in addition to more 'built-in' major appliances such as central (including, 'filtered/purified') heating and cooling, hot water on-demand, washers/dryers, fridges, etc. is becoming more not commonplace. Also, as the retiree (home-bound) population increases, this will likely result in more energy demand, not just because they'll need to keep their homes at comfortable temps all day long but also because of new assisted-living devices e.g., stair-lifts, motorized wheelchairs, bath-tub lifts, etc. in addition to using more normal day-to-day appliances such as TVs, radios, computers, etc.

104:

Too late. I saw e-sheet music about ten years ago in San Francisco (the gear looked like it cost a pretty penny), and now you can get it from Guitar Center:

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Freehand-MusicPad-Pro-Plus-Version-4-0-Electronic-Sheet-Music-Display-241190-i1126007.gc

Includes mark & annotation capability. You can also plug in a footpedal to turn the page without taking your hands off the instrument, a huge improvement over paper scores.

105:

3D printers: there's a model out there that extrudes icing sugar for cakes, or chocolate. Makes very intricate confectionary. A friend of mine looked into an artisan business start-up in Edinburgh using a non-food-grade modified version of same. See, Edinburgh is about 10% listed buildings by area, and they tend to have ornate plaster cornicework in rooms. If you can take a 3D scan of a chunk of surviving plasterwork, and feed it to a printer producing plaster, then you can repair/replace mouldings that were damaged in the past (of which there are a lot).

And that's just for starters using a machine accurate to only about 1mm in resolution.

106:

I've wondered why the construction industry still uses the same building materials - habit? We need building materials to be both energy-efficient and be made more energy-efficiently.

Personally, I'd love a glasshouse with a 'smart' built-in dimmer-switch to control the amount of sunlight let in and/or rerouted (and amplified by mirrors) into energy for the rest of the house. Given the increased rate of dessertification, pretty sure sourcing sand to make glass walls wouldn't be a problem. Adding some metals/ceramics into the glass recipe would address some common glass-related problems.

107:

Yes, and I shelled out a chunk for a pen I use almost only at book signings. (Nice heft, wooden body that doesn't slip out of my unusually dry fingers.) But it still takes a cheap replaceable rollerball cartridge -- to that extent it's not a pen, it's just a fancy disposable pen holder.

(I can't stand fountain pens. Had to use 'em at school for years, while being left-handed with the crab-hand-round and write upside down mode -- which results in inky palms every time. And if you exclude fountain pens and technical drafting pens, virtually all modern pens are just fancy disposable pen holders.)

108:

Re: roof-mounted solar panels -- partly as effect of our EEG ("renewable energy law", a law that regulates that power generated by solar panels et al has to be bought at fixed prices by the energy companies), in rural parts of Germany roof-mounted solar panels are rather ubiquitious - not as marker for environmental consciousness (that's more a sub-urb thing), but because it makes sense as part of income for rural roof-owners. So even conservative farmers have them, because they are subsidized by all power consumers via the EEG law (the path in which this will continue is at the moment unclear, there's a conflict between Bundesregierung and Bundesrat, i.e. the 16 states).

109:

"What everyday items in 30 years time will we not be paying enough attention to? Or continuing to use despite their obsolescence, for purposes radically at odds with their original role"

Answer to both questions: board games.

Certain games (like a fancy chess set) are more artwork than game. The old style massive hexagon wargames which took hours/days to set up (let alone play) have been made obsolete by commercially available PC strategy games and cyberboard/vassal copies of the original carboard versions.

But as people become more socialy isolated because of the internet - and assuming computer game AIs remain stupida and/or continue to cheat in order to win - simple board games and card games become a great way to continue human interactions (and to find a worthwhile opponent).

110:

A correction - the watch has always been a piece of jewellery as well as a way of telling the time. Thus the niche has not changed for hundreds of years, it is just the emphasis put upon it in culture. Those French sounding watch names that people fork out loads of money for? Many were founded in the 19th century or earlier. Thus the watch as timepiece and as jewellery is an old one.

That said your point about beds and chairs is quite right.

Perhaps in 30 years time pens will be obsolete in daily life. Unless that is you want to write a letter to someone or a card. But I can't think of how we'd use one any differently to now, although since I already pointed out that your concept of the wristwatch as an obsolete thing repurposed as jewellery was mostly wrong, I don't have any idea of what could be used as an example instead.

Hmm, I see Alistair McKinstrey has already mentioned pens. But if you wanted to repurpose them, perhaps they would write using ink with DNA tags individual to you within it, as a complex and more upmarket equivalent of putting your thumb print or suchlike.

Certainly it maybe that in 30 years time the only glasses people will wear will be virtual reality ones like that stuff Google is advertising just now. Meanwhile those with actual wonky eyeballs will get them fixed by some sort of organic nanotech that lays down new outer layers of your eyeball in the correct thickness to compensate.

We may be forced into paying more attention to plumbing and sewage by problems to do with mining out phosphates and suchlike.
Certainly the last decade ever increasing numbers of people in the UK are paying less attention to politics, thus helping the current oligarchy sieze power.

111:

It depends which books you mean. Transient entertainment fiction, yes.
Long term data storage, no. I can't find information on the internet that I have in my 1960's or 1920's chemistry textbooks, or the modern Blackstone's police manuals I picked up in a charity shop, or any number of old out of print books. Plus a lot of older SF hasn't been reprinted or digitised.

Of course in 30 years time the question is whether or not we'll have digitised all the books available. I'm personally wonder if we have enough server space, electricity and bandwidth to do that, especially if the worse climate possibilities are occuring.

112:

To speak up for the rooftop solar panel crowd...

Well, I have mixed feelings. I know a large number of environmentalists pushing for rooftop solar, for a couple of reasons in the US:

1. Given the problems with the power grid, creating a bunch of remote solar or wind plants and building a bunch of *really expensive* high voltage power lines to get power from them to us seems stupid, especially when the lines cost more to build than do the power plants they'd serve. I'd rather have the power near at hand.

2. Given the problems with power plants (wind, solar, coal, natural gas, nuclear), making more of them seems stupid, unless we have no other choice. Additionally, having read some of the environmental reports, I think that many of the renewable plants *are* stupid: they're unlikely to break even financially before they hit the end of their design life, absent substantial public money inflows. They also create substantial problems for people living nearby.

3. Rooftop solar (in theory) would keep a bunch of local workers employed more or less indefinitely, installing and servicing panels. Big plants, conversely, employ a big crew of high-wage, imported contractos to set up, then employ a small crew of local, low-wage workers to maintain them. As job centers, they're not great.

4. The military's doing it, and if they're going green, it must be the right thing to do. Wait, that's not an environmentalist argument. Still...

Still, solar panels on roofs are, right now, a signifier, not a solution. Part of this is simple, energy-wasting habits (like massive electronics use), that we don't particularly want to give up.

Rather more is due to the solar panel industry being under constant assault, whether from cheap Chinese panels, huge energy companies systematically campaigning to not have solar on roofs (see my previous rants about power companies), and the general way politics is run for huge existing corporations, not game-changing start-ups. I find it deeply ironic that the only industry politically capable of standing up to Big Power is the Chinese knock-off market, but there you have it.

Granted, solar doesn't work everywhere, but I suspect that, in 30 years, it will be far more widespread than it is now. There's just too much wasted roof space in most cities, and too much stupidity floating around in our power systems, not to make some change inevitable. I don't think it's going to be a pleasant change, but I do suspect that if we get enough shortages and disasters, people will switch to rooftop solar just because it's more reliable than what's coming in through the lines and pipes. Or maybe, someone will come up with the "killer app" (perhaps the neighborhood server and the 30 watt laptop), that will make it worthwhile to shell out for panels.

113:

Economic habit - they'll use whatever is cheapest for them to do so, using as few designs as possible, because training people to build lots of different ones and having lots of different design things around is expensive, not to mention actually getting the design done.
That and the managers are probably morons, as most managers are.

The amount of sand available is independent of desertification, but you should be aware that making glass is not just a matter of finding a bit of sand and throwing it in a furnace. You can't make nice clear glass that will do what you want it to do (With the appropriate additives and manufacturing process) without starting with some pretty clean silica in the first place. But that in turn isn't exactly lying about even on a beach.

So the actual things which people will take for granted and not know much about is EVERYTHING. I only know lots because I am interested in stuff and how it works; your average member of the public has no idea how their flat screen monitor gets to the shop and the massive chain of complexities behind it. Perhaps things are too complex these days for our own good.

114:

I love the idea of anachronistic smart-phones, maintained long after everyone has has transcranial stimulators or whatever.

Other similar status symbols:

1) Driving wheels in auto-piloted cars

2) paper books

3) eyeglasses

4) suboptimal bodies (too short, too fat, too bald, and so on)

115:

I think we won't be paying enough attention to privacy, especially as the current younger generation seem almost oblivious to the issue.

We won't be paying attention to information preservation. (But that was covered in Glasshouse)

I suspect we won't be paying enough attention to diseases (although scares will be common) because despite our current concerns, there will be good anti-microbials in 30 years, probably even good anti-virals.

I think ties will continue as an article of clothing that we pay too much attention to, especially those used for signaling status. (Not a technical obsolescence, so it may not count).

Possibly we will pay too much attention to some jobs, e.g. sommeliers, because surely cheap communications and data make them obsolete even today.

I wonder if surgery will become so good, that transgenders will actually want to signal their status, rather than not. Couple that with a fetish for being visibly borged.

116:

AIUI, Iridium is due for an update starting in 2015. The new satellites will increase the inter-satellite bandwidth, have more support for data transmission, and add some services like communicating with other satellites not in the Iridium constellation. The contract for the launch of the new birds has already been signed.

117:

Thirty years is a long time out - many of today's infants will have their kids in school by then.

    Still Ignored:
  • Energy use/efficiency: This may well be worse as designers continue to focus more on appearance and function and less on system design. Design-automation software will continue handling more of the boring technical design tasks. Efficiency regulations are critical to keeping this under control.
  • Fiber plant: This stuff will still be underground and in-use 40-50 years after it was all installed in the Boom Years. The folks who installed it will also be underground, sadly.
  • Water supply: "Who drinks tap water anymore?" (grr...)
  • Embedded software: Linux-based with a sprinkling of BSD and weird MS stuff, running on a mix of ARM, Chinese MIPS and FPGA cores. All networked with open ports and random backdoors, and no easy way to maintain/update since the build tools got lost 5 workstation-refreshes ago. Welcome to 2038.
  • Records: Transmetropolitan got it right about how poor public and business records are going to be in the future. Paper + proprietary formats + data-hoarding = needles rusting away in rotting haystacks.


    Fetishes:
  • Human-driven private vehicles: Rural folks and geezers like me will still be hanging onto ours, but younger folks won't want the drama.
  • Cash: Hip like vinyl. Stick it to VISA, man!
  • Smartphone cases: Much as now, a nice artisan (or one-off) case for your generic iFondle is a good social signal. Implants won't be ready yet, and goggles won't catch on with trendsetters (i.e. folks whose high status depends on charisma and sociability.)
  • Cooking: As much as it pains me to admit it, it's now possible to eat somewhat healthily on convenience foods. A large share of the next generation will have been raised that way by their working single mothers. Watch for more apartments/condos to be built with "kitchenettes".
  • Old/repro music gear: A perennial favorite. It will be interesting to see where things go with modern DSP-based stuff, that doesn't have a distinctive sound. (Of course, that's what the last generation said.)
  • Older computing gear: Hopefully, the web-ization of everything means that the computing power of consumer web-terminals/phones will level off, and well-built high-end gear will last.


    Just to get these out of the way, some near-term fetishes, irrelevant in 30 years:
  • Motorcycles > 250cc: They may be common where you live, but by global market share, they are specialty items. (And yes, I have a 1200cc Buell. What?)
  • Gaming rigs
  • Big TVs
  • Pickup trucks that never haul anything (I hope this is just a stupid Western-US thing.)

118:

tablet 'music stands' would be slim height-adjustable pull-out poles plugged directly into the building's electrical system.

Have you actually played an instrument on a stage?

First off there's a reason music is still mostly letter/A4 sized. And you put two pages up at time so you can pay attention to what's ahead along with what's happening in the moment.

And plugging your music display device in to electrical outlets will introduce trip hazard 47 on a typical stage. Not to mention they will NEVER be in a convenient location.

119:

One thing we will not pay attention to is artificial light sources - they will "never" need replacing, so will disappear into the fabric of structures.

Conversely, we will continue to pay too much attention to older light sources, like candles. I even saw "replicas" of old Edison light bulbs in a DIY store.

120:

And yet I plan to buy a Wacom Bamboo Stylus for the iPad I'm getting for my wife. Granted not everyone will need one, but there are still a lot of people who have to draw things: artists, engineers, etc., and finger-painting on a tablet or other flat surface is not at all optimal for that.

121:

You don't write a story about what the people in the story find cool. Or even about what you find cool. A story is about people. The items are environment, because people will react differently in different environments.

Science fiction is usually about an environment in which things that current people would find cool are featured, but which to people living in the environment aren't particularly noticeable. But that's not the story. The story is in the interaction between intelligent entities. (And then I have to ask "Just how intelligent was Athena?", because Athena didn't appear to have any self-directed purposes. Certainly Athena has many characteristics of intelligent humans, but Athena was missing some characteristics of even very stupid humans. Or dogs. And certainly cats.) Well, when you explore the boundaries you end up with examples that don't fit well into the general categories.

P.S.: Note that what I said about science fiction is also true of any good adventure story, which is what science fiction developed out of. It's also true of good modern fantasy novels. The older traditions where things seem strange even to the participants seems to have lapsed. (Note that in this I'm not counting unexpected discoveries as being strange, but just as being an expectable part of life in the universe.)

122:

More people will pay more attention to bathroom fixtures and furniture (at least in the US, where they've been pretty much ignored except as status symbols (gold-plated fixtures? really?) until recently). My wife and I spent quite a bit of time and energy re-designing our bathrooms when we remodeled them a few years ago. The designers and contractors we worked with were surprised (and pleased) that we spent so much thought on making the bathrooms comfortable, usable, and easier to clean. They told us that most people thought very little about bathroom design when they remodeled, and chose fixtures more by price than anything else.

People will probably pay much less attention to their schedules and calendars. Reasonably efficient expert systems are capable of acting as limited administrative assistants now, though the user interfaces to them are pretty crappy. I expect we'll see effectively everyone in the developed economies and most in other areas who have the computing power of a phone available have an AI assistant to schedule, make transportation and lodging arrangements for trips, maintain shopping lists, etc.

123:

It's quite possible that in 30 years time if we're all still here blahblahblahdisclaimers, what we won't see is the middle class. What was the middle class in the 'developed nations' will now be a service class to the wealthy, and rather less numerous than the middle class as we've known it since the 1950's. You will need to be highly educated, highly skilled, personable, well-dressed, etc., but your only opportunities will be in very explicit service to the top percentiles.

We see it everywhere now, with the prestige educated recently graduated starting their own business, but the business is very personal service to those who pay for them: midwife, douala, life coach, personal trainers -- and then the staffs necessary for the multiple homes the global wealthy elite have. El V recently returned from a gig in Houston, brought in by his patron, a multi-billionaire. Among the enormous staff for the castle, grounds, gardens, garages, stables, guest house complex include DEA agents moonlighting among his permenant security staff. And his wife oversees it all -- quite like a chatelaine of the castle in the middle ages.

This isn't their only home either. This one refuses to own his own jet, but he rents one when flying, and he has his own staff of pilots from the corporation, from which the plane is piloted -- and staffed for service as well.

Love, C.

124:

Musical instruments and tghe physical act of being able to play one will become totally art for art's sake, there will be nothing that a computer cannot emulate. Possibly the same for human musicians in general...

125:

Plastics. Yes, they're useful, but I suspect our use plastics right now will be seen as stupid and quaint as the lead paint in old houses, and the ubiquitous use of DDT back in the 60s and 70s. The simple problem is that, as a class, plastics are a pain to get rid of, they contain a huge number of contamination concerns, and if oil gets more expensive, they'll get more expensive too. My bet is that we'll see more friendly substitutes, with a bunch of old-timers complaining about how the new stuff just isn't the same as the plastics we used to have as kids.

Another thing I suspect we won't see any more is wild fish in our diets, any more than most of us see wild game in our diets (yes, Americans should eat more vension and less sea bass). We may, however, see more jellyfish meal in our cheaper industrial food products.

126:

My watch battery died a few months back and I decided not to replace it. It's occasionally been a mild inconvenience fishing into my pocket to check the hour, but that's about it. (I've also reaffirmed that I am really good at estimating the time without having to check in the first place.)

My favorite current obsolete technology that's used for a purpose completely different from its original one is Usenet. Its lack of moderation has left it vulnerable to spam, and its plain-text format and post size limitations have left it hopelessly primitive as a tool for Internet communication -- but the former has actually made it an ideal forum for the spread of copyrighted material, and the latter have been subject to an amazing series of convoluted hacks to turn it into an actually-quite-good download service for large files.

Over the past, what, 15 years we've moved from UUE to yEnc and slapped RAR on top of that, PAR on top of that, and wrapped the whole thing up in NZB's -- to the point that you can set up a combination of software like sabnzbd+ and SickBeard and automatically download TV shows as the air.

Subject, of course, to whether or not the guy posting them knows that there's a fucking hyphen in "Spider-Man".

Honest to God, if the TV networks would give me an equivalent way to access TV shows, with less hassle to configure and more reliability, I'd pay for it.

...Which of course brings us to what everybody else has already observed about the changing role of the TV. I like a good big screen and sound system, and I think people are still going to spend money on things like that, but the idea of turning your TV on at a certain time because that's when your show is on is already passe and soon will be abandoned entirely (with the obvious exceptions of live programming like sporting events -- and I fear that friggin' American Idol-style competition shows aren't going to go away either).

On the far end of "paying too much attention" to such devices, well, everything's hackable and I think we're going to see an increasing hobbyist community of custom firmwares for TV's and suchlike. (I recently bought an audio receiver; it's the first appliance I've ever bought that came with a GPL compliance notice in the box.)

And of course the fragmentation of the TV audience will continue; I believe (at least most of) the major media companies will still exist and continue to produce serialized entertainment 30 years in the future, but the presence of amateur video on sites like YouTube and independent fare like The Guild, not to mention other forms of entertainment, will erode the number of viewers of studio fare. (And cable TV is completely doomed. Paying for Fox News so I can get Comedy Central was irritating a decade ago; it's completely unnecessary now.)

All of which is rather more boring than 3D printers and self-driving cars, of course.

127:

Wires - specifically those for headphones, linking any two parts of a computer together and anything for charging a portable device.

128:

The older traditions where things seem strange even to the participants seems to have lapsed. (Note that in this I'm not counting unexpected discoveries as being strange, but just as being an expectable part of life in the universe.)

Can you elaborate on this? I cannot think of a single SF story "in older tradition", where the entire universe is strange to the participants. Alice in Wonderland fits, as do other "ordinary modern person fell through spacetime gate" stories, but they were never particularly common, and if anything are more common nowadays.

129:

Just a bit on the solar front.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_India

"In the solar energy sector, some large projects have been proposed, and a 35,000 km2 area of the Thar Desert has been set aside for solar power projects, sufficient to generate 700 GW to 2,100 GW.
In July 2009, India unveiled a US$19 billion plan to produce 20 GW of solar power by 2020.[1] Under the plan, the use of solar-powered equipment and applications would be made compulsory in all government buildings, as well as hospitals and hotels."

Solar PV panels are now well below $1/W

130:

@ 79 80 et al
Computing power / price/ usefulness ...
at what point does the syatem, erm "wake up" ?

@ 81
Printing small objects ...
Like replacement car parts for bespoke older machines?
Given that It can already be done in ? Titanium ? or something for people's jaw-bones ....

Ken Brown @ 93
Why don't ordinary houses and flats have easy access to the underfloor spaces where the plumbing and wiring goes? Why are kitchens almost universally too small, plug sockets too few and in inconvenient places, .. WHich is why I have re-wired my whole house - suspended Victoria floors, and fitted flaps in said floor - one with complete computer plug-in power-sockets + phone terminal. Older is better, here - if you can do it.

"Tablets" and computers generally - even now, use;ess for sketching"/doodling/crossing-out/maths/MATHS.
Will require RADICAL redisign - of both the op-systems AND the interfaces.
Until then, stick with pen/pencil & paper ????

unholy guy @ 124
BOLLOCKS
You cannot ever reproduce the effect of (say) the Solti "Ring" cycle recording (warts-n-all) or the glorious tragedy expressed in Kathleen Ferrier's voice.
There are others, whom are insatantly recognisable, or very quickly spotted, unlike any other. [ Janet Baker, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, Joan Baez, Shirley Collins, Joan Tabor etc .....

131:

My thoughts exactly. I feel naked without my watch. Just used the bezel on my diving watch to time the cooking of a mince & onion pie (30 minutes at gas 6, if anyone is interested). Who else wears watches? Astronauts! Often two at a time, one with MET, one with GMT.

132:

Only time I played on stage was at my third grade piano recital ... nevertheless despite what I described it does appear that electronic/tablet music stands will be becoming more common.

133:

I have oddly sensitive skin on my wrists, and always HATED watches. Watch bands made my wrists itch unbearably, even metal ones. Tried to wear them on the outside of a sleeve, but for a teenager that was tres uncool. For years I used to carry a wristwatch in my pocket, but once I bought my first cell phone never touched the evil things again. Except for a dive watch worn on the outside of a wetsuit sleeve -- but I lost it in the ocean and never bothered to replace it.

134:

Musical instruments and tghe physical act of being able to play one will become totally art for art's sake

In the US it already is. And has been for many decades. At least since radio replaced pianos as the center of family entertainment.

I suspect the conversion rate of school kids making more than pocket change as adults playing music is way worse than the number of school kids who make money playing sports after school.

135:

I don't know about that. Thirty years of sequencers, and the best we can manage for the rhythm section is to use the Amen sample. Computers are v handy for chopping up and rearranging beats, but there's no substitute for a live drummer yet, Blue Monday notwithstanding.

136:

Re: guthrie 113

"The amount of sand available is independent of desertification, but you should be aware that making glass is not just a matter of finding a bit of sand and throwing it in a furnace. You can't make nice clear glass that will do what you want it to do (With the appropriate additives and manufacturing process) without starting with some pretty clean silica in the first place. But that in turn isn't exactly lying about even on a beach."

I'm interested in glass as substitutes for metals and plastics, and not just everyday clear window-pane glass. Metals have enjoyed more study/experimentation than glass and ceramics yet both these materials might end up being much better all-round versatile materials. (I wonder whether glass/ceramics are more easily recycled/remade than metals into other products.) Anyways, please see here for what I mean by 'glass' - it's a vast category.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass

I can't find the article, but many years ago I read a fascinating piece about how ceramic alloys had to be used by NASA for their rockets/shuttles because metals just couldn't handle the heat stress.

137:

I've seen printing electronics on multiply-curved surfaces, using deposition techniques capable of (apparently) printing anything, down to the resolution of the "atomiser". So in theory they could print transistors, though in practise they were printing tracks, and you'd then glue flip-chips onto the surface when you were done. With a cheap pick-and-place machine you built...

138:

Ceramics/Glass are better in dealing with heat. Unless you can't deal with the brittle attribute. There metals win hands down.

139:

Here is a computer projection using vocaloid s/w
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTXO7KGHtjI

140:

Being able to play musical instruments well enough is actually a really useful skill for the social economy.

Example: it costs me £50-£150 to go to a festival. It costs someone who is happy to play for a couple of hours nothing to go, and they'll get food or beer or ... thrown in. So that's quite a nice little trade, and they all seem to enjoy the work (or they wouldn't be doing it).

Making a living out of it - well, that's a lot harder...

141:

Sorry this is off-topic -- but I spent quite a bit of time looking for this info, i.e., the 2012 U.S. Military budget as % of GDP, and how it's spent. (See previous topic thread.)

142:

My point was, you won't actually need people playing instruments to make the music that people listen to. Just like we don't need people drawing stuff to make cartoons anymore. Today you still kinda do, but it's not hard to see the horizon approaching.

Same for actors probably. Won't really need living people to make movies and things

143:

Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, the hoodie is about to become executive business attire. Guaranteed if this becomes the fashion, the gangstas will stop wearing them, and Neighborhood Watch people will stop shooting people wearing hoodies </sarcasm enough for you?>

144:

I am kind of hoping that the wristwatch will make a comeback, not as a luxury item but as a suitable container for all the miniaturized electronics we need for our everyday communication and organizing needs. Something strapped around the wrist is still one of the simplest ways to carry such an item without need for pockets or transfer from one garment or bag to another.

145:

"you get the right to pop! Your drinks are complimentary now, and your records are in charity shops"

-Graham Coxon.

146:

Indeed, I know that there are many types of glass. I even have a rough idea of what goes on at the molecular level, not to mention experience of breaking borosilicate glass through dropping water onto it whilst it was very hot, at a point which was no doubt a good fracture starting point because of the shape of the vessel.

So I'm a little confused about what exactly your point is - I've pointed out that making good modern glass is a little harder than picking up some sand from somewhere and heating it. So you suggest that there are lots of types of glass, which is correct. But have you ever thought about how they are made? The pictures of molten glass floating on liquid metal are quite amazing. You should then consider which methods are cheaper and produce the type of glass you want to use.
There are also a lot of cunning coatings you can put on glass these days to enhance themral or other properties.

Much glass is definitely easily recyclable, see your local bottle banks. Ceramics, less so. It depends on what you mean and what you want to use it for. E.g. simple clay pottery can be ground up and used as grog in something else or maybe just as agregate. But unless you specify what type of ceramics it is a bit harder to tell you how easy to recycle they would be. Recycling metals for similar end uses is probably still a bit easier, because the scrap is more easily analysed in bulk and you can separate the different types out more easily than you might ceramics.

147:

I am kind of hoping that the wristwatch will make a comeback, not as a luxury item but as a suitable container for all the miniaturized electronics we need for our everyday communication and organizing needs.

I'd rather like a front end for my iPhone on my wrist. Then I could read or ignore texts, see alarms, check my calendar for free/not free today, get an alert for emails to certain accounts, etc...

Then I'd pull out the bigger thing when I needed a display bigger than an 1" on a side.

148:

I can't find information on the internet that I have in my 1960's or 1920's chemistry textbooks, or the modern Blackstone's police manuals I picked up in a charity shop, or any number of old out of print books. Plus a lot of older SF hasn't been reprinted or digitised.


Of course in 30 years time the question is whether or not we'll have digitised all the books available. I'm personally wonder if we have enough server space, electricity and bandwidth to do that, especially if the worse climate possibilities are occurring.


The HathiTrust, a consortium of libraries combining their Google-digitized book collections, has about 8500 titles on chemistry published between 1920 and 1960. Unless you have some very specialized chemistry books it's unlikely that their factual content (or perhaps the very titles that you own) are not yet digitized. But if you were looking for content from those old books, you'd have to know to visit hathitrust.org and use their own search engine: the book scans and OCR text are available to the public if the book is out of copyright but general web search engines don't index that deep content.

Why doesn't that chemistry information show up from Google Books, since Google does include those results in general search and Google made the scans in the first place? Google is excessively cautious about displaying potentially copyrighted material. While the HathiTrust has used Library of Congress records to confirm that many books published between 1923 and 1963 in the US are now public domain, Google just uses a blanket cutoff based on year of publication or copyright owner opt-in. They even hide many scans that were "born public domain," like US government publications. Even with HathiTrust's finer attention to copyright status, only about 20% of their 1920-1960 chemistry books are public domain and therefore available for viewing. Getting access to the other 80%, either with a fee or without it, is entirely dependent on legal/business factors.

Google estimates, based on their large scale library scanning/catalog efforts, that there are about 130 million unique "books" (including serials and different editions of a work) in the world. The HathiTrust is currently storing 10.3 million scanned volumes using 462 terabytes of digital storage. Growing another 13-fold in 30 years seems almost trivial. The last great challenge will be scanning the long tail of rare, fragile, and/or unusual books, since there are fewer sources and more technical challenges in capturing faithful reproductions without harm to the original. Scanning all extant books published before 1800 may be a project that goes in little painstaking pieces for decades, despite how relatively few books are from those years.

Reproducing digital books takes thousands of times less energy than reproducing paper books. The building space occupied by a digital library is thousands of times less than that occupied by an equivalent paper library. If the future can't afford the energy and space costs of digital books then it's one of those post-apocalyptic ones where people are turning paper books into fuel and bedding.

149:

Also with regards to recycling ceramics, I've not yet heard of a way of taking some ceramics and recycling them into what they were before, whereas you can do that with metals and with glass. Because a lot of ceramics are mixes of high melting temp materials doing anything with them requires a lot of energy, more than glass or suchlike.

150:

Well... 30 years is a long timespan, so how about brains? I mean that particular intracranial wetware model we all use today. It seems to be a good candidate to follow wrist watches path during the (possibly) forthcoming posthuman era.

151:

Phone numbers will continue to exist as far as the telecommunications network will assign them to accounts, but we already pay no attention to them.

I would be curious to see if personalized numbers continue to exist as touch tone keypads with number/letter keys lose ubiquity. Businesses that pay extra for numbers like 800-FOR-RENT won't make sense any more. Similarly, toll free numbers no longer make as much sense.

152:

I keep my watch in my manbag (bought from an outdoor/camping store.) It's a very cheap ($1) digital watch.

153:

I have worn a wrist-watch for well over half my life, but abandoned it when I got my first company cell-phone nigh on 15 years ago.
Yesterday I was in a meeting room located in a "fit for classified-as-secret stuff" building, and we had to leave everything even vaguely electronic in lockers outside.

And that's when I noticed how much I depend on my phone (it's a "dumb" feature phone, not even a smartphone) for tasks as "being aware of the time", and how much I got used to just being reachable for emergencies all the time, or at least available-within-the-hour per SMS (try explaining to a 20-25yo that you're gonna be completely&utterly unreachable for 8-10 hours, whilst not being on a plane - it's like you fall off the edge of the world).

(And next time I'm packing the purely mechanical pocketwatch ;) )

154:

You need a food-grade, totally versatile (does more than icing on cakes) 3D printer "integrated" externally with an oven.

And I need one too because while I love well done recipes I absolutely hate to cook.

I think that there are hundreds of millions of people out there who love to eat good cuisine but hate cooking. That food grade application of 3D printing is enough, alone, to justify the creation of a 3D printer industry.

155:

How many cooking processes are actually amenable to 3D printing, though?

I can't think of any recipes right now that would work except icing sugar sculptures.

156:

"What everyday items in 30 years time will we not be paying enough attention to?"

1. Staples would be as defunct are the Punch Label Maker
2. Large Pets, would be Verboten , as they require too much infrastucture
3. Skateboards would be an old-timey hobby, like Curling and Ice fishing

"which will continuing to use use despite their obsolescence, for purposes radically at odds with their original role?"
1. Glasses, I suspect 20/20 vision would be near-universal, but we'll still use them for AR/VR
2. Rings (see #1)

157:

[Hatsune Miku live]

The first time I saw clips from that concert I just sat there with my mouth open and thought I was dreaming. It's just such an unexpected and over the top technical achievement, even if it's couple of years old by now.

Also pretty certain to send some portion of viewers into a state of confused rage, to judge by the sort of comments that follow. I suppose it does mess with the idea of The Artist and their sacred role in music, in some way.

The best part is that there is actually live musicians on stage.

158:

Actually over the last century the building trade has gone through several major changes in how walls are built. In the UK the standard went from solid brick to brick cavity walls then the inner wall became concrete blocks, these changes were mandated by changes to the building regulations but had been happening anyway. Aerated concrete blocks which are both lighter and better insulation are becoming more popular. The fact that the outer wall has remained brick disguises that the inner wall has changed substantially. Buyers apparently want a traditional look.

159:
I'd rather like a front end for my iPhone on my wrist.
Apparently you are not alone, a project to do exactly what you describe was able to raise a gajillion dollars on Kickstarter recently, I can't seem to remember the name though.
160:

Duh, and now I notice that it was mentioned in the very first comment on this post. Time to get some sleep.

161:

I see that a lot of the discussion is about First World situations, with the assumption of an evenly distributed future. As we know, progress is anything but uniform.
My broad expectation is that anything nonessential that requires a large energy input will be out of reach for the majority of people. Like my dad's boat that gets 1/2 mile per gallon on $5/gal fuel. That's just not going to be a middle class thing when the price of petroleum permanently exceeds $300/barrel.

162:

A versatile food grade 3D printer would also have several types of blades and be externally integrated with a refrigerator in addition to an oven.

163:

The ubiquitous smart phone/tablet/laptop convergent device will become more designer oriented. I remember a William Gibson book a while ago (Idoru), which talked about designer/organic laptops/cases.

"I like your computer," she said. "It looks like it was made by Indians or something."
Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. "Coral," she said. "These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable."
"The rest is silver?"
"Aluminum," Chia said. "They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That's linen with this resin in it."
From Idoru, by William Gibson.
Published by Putnam in 1996

The internals could be updated and upgraded as needed, but the expensive and resilient exterior would keep on keeping on and be a significant fashion statement.

Every new Ipad for example demands new peripherals – narrower/wider, different connection ports, heavier etc. Of course part of this is due to technological enhancements as well as driving peripheral sales – but if the various tablet/smartphone/mp3 manufacturers agreed on a format – and just competed on internals – perhaps you would develop a market for really high quality, personalised peripherals/cases – ala the decadent watch?

You could go further, and again using the watch as a template develop real portable babbage engines using nano-technology that would function (perhaps not as effectively) as low grade tablets. All far future stuff though.

164:

unholyguy wrote:

"Musical instruments and tghe physical act of being able to play one will become totally art for art's sake, there will be nothing that a computer cannot emulate. Possibly the same for human musicians in general..."

Hmm. Do you play a musical instrument? I think you're underestimating the pleasure of playing and the social aspect of playing with others. It's not all for the sake of art. Do you think teenage boys pick up electric guitars and join bands for the sake of art, for example?

I also think your definition of what counts as a musical instrument these days is probably too narrow. A recording studio has been an instrument since at least the 1960s. "Programming" has been a legitimate musician credit since at least the 1980s. A DAW is most definitely an instrument in and of itself these days.

165:

The fact that the outer wall has remained brick disguises that the inner wall has changed substantially.

Brick veneer walls are pretty darn efficient in terms of both construction and long term utility compare to many other options. And fairly low on the maintenance scale. Unless you're into rammed earth they are hard to beat.

166:

That's just not going to be a middle class thing when the price of petroleum permanently exceeds $300/barrel.

For a long time I was with you on that. Now I'm not so sure. It seems before gas gets to $5/gal (US pricing) enough profit shows up that we start digging it up where we considered it not worth it before. Then the price seems to drop down to a little north of $3/gal.

Now there are a lot of things that can change this but I wonder how many fields there are that are 5 miles down. The oil companies have very accurate 3D maps down farther than that but they don't share with each other or the public.

Of course if China and/or India start using oil per person like a 1st world country then all bets are off. They still have most of their people living in a 3rd world environment. As of now.

167:

It seems inevitable that a post on futurism would be outdated immediately. Three years ago, solar panels on your roof signified that you were concerned about the environment. Today, it signifies that you like getting 6% return on capital or a monthly check from the fella who leases your roofspace.

Unless Walmart is far more crunchy-granola than I've previously believed:
http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-15/business/31702487_1_solar-panels-solar-power-solar-projects

168:

My middle school and high school students have said to me:

* "What do you mean, 'dial' a phone?"

* Which way is clockwise? Um, left to right?"

Your question overlaps -- what retronyms 30 years from now shall parallel: "snail mail," "analog watch," "landline phone," "cloth diaper," "two-parent family," "natural turf," and "kinetic warfare"?

I suggest:
* "classical computers -- versus quantum computers;
* "macrotechnology" -- versus nanotechnology and picotechnology.

169:

And traveling places in meatspace is gonna be seen as sooo XX-cen.

170:

Both of my last two employers were Aeron chair fans, and I have to say that I don't like them nearly as well as ordinary office chairs. They're uncomfortable for me, and don't have usefully more adjustment than good conventional chairs. I'm still using the office chair from my 1996-2000 job at home; the arm mechanism broke, but I epoxied them into place at the right height and that's lasted several years now.

My devotion to the wristwatch is probably historical as much as anything; when I started wearing one, in 1958, depending on my OWN time was much more reliable than using clocks around me, which didn't agree with each other. Now, my wristwatch, all my computers at home and work, and many wall clocks are all synchronized to the same source. And my cell phone probably (guessing what the cell company gets their time signal from). So now, it's much less important to always use the same time source; but my habits are set. And it really is much much easier to glance at my wrist than to dig out my phone and turn it on. And it's much harder to disguise getting my phone out and checking the time as something else, and that's really pretty important pretty often.

171:

Both of my last two employers were Aeron chair fans, and I have to say that I don't like them nearly as well as ordinary office chairs. They're uncomfortable for me, and don't have usefully more adjustment than good conventional chairs. I'm still using the office chair from my 1996-2000 job at home; the arm mechanism broke, but I epoxied them into place at the right height and that's lasted several years now.

My devotion to the wristwatch is probably historical as much as anything; when I started wearing one, in 1958, depending on my OWN time was much more reliable than using clocks around me, which didn't agree with each other. Now, my wristwatch, all my computers at home and work, and many wall clocks are all synchronized to the same source. And my cell phone probably (guessing what the cell company gets their time signal from). So now, it's much less important to always use the same time source; but my habits are set. And it really is much much easier to glance at my wrist than to dig out my phone and turn it on. And it's much harder to disguise getting my phone out and checking the time as something else, and that's really pretty important pretty often.

172:

My desk chair is a Sturgis Posture chair, made in Grand Rapids MI around a half century ago. It's covered in the original imaginative tortoise shell vinyl and has numerous adjustments. A bit of an oddity but very distinctive and comfortable.
If I had to make broad guesses about the future they would revolve around a greatly increased role for the elderly in society. Japan is way ahead of the US in this already. America's fastest growing demographic group is people over 80. And they're not just going to sit under a shawl and rock in their chair all day. Many are very healthy, and more important for their impact on society, they have money to spend. We're already seeing the proportion of adults in the labor force diminish as the leading edge of the baby boom starts to retire. That cohort's disproportionate influence on culture probably will continue. Expect larger, more visible traffic signs and demands for enhancements in accessability in public places for those with limited mobility, to name two effects. I'd hate to be 18 years old in a world where the most self-absorbed generation ever are all 60+ and still making the rules.

173:

Think about too little:

Bed, but it's on the mid-term plan. Chair I have under control; I acquired an Aeron for home office, in the large size (yes, they come in multiple sizes), and it works better for me than normal office chairs.

Internet plumbing. It's not getting easier. There was a whole round of IP mobility / mobile net concepts stuff as IPv6 was being developed, which went approximately nowhere. Also routing concepts we use today break down as we get super-ultra-mega-distributed-meshes.

Think about too much:

Portable computers. I expect that a dedicated concentrated computing resource (laptop) carried around isn't going to be an issue in 30 years. iPhone / Cray analogy etc. Whatever brings me internet (phone, wireless, lasercomm, whatever) in 30 years, I will have an interface to which is much less large and clumsy as a dedicated laptop.

Random comment:

Brick afficionados, you don't live in Earthquake Country, do you? ...

174:

I'm surprised no-one's suggested money yet, as in actual cash, coins and notes. Here in Japan, if you have a smart transport pass linked to your bank account you can not only use it on trains and buses, but also pay with it in some stores and restaurants just by passing it over a sensor. Combine that with a credit card, and unless you want to buy something from a vending machine, you can go for days without ever needing to touch cash.

175:

You may think wires are obsolete: alas, the laws of physics disagree with you, although we've still got some headroom before wireless bandwidth increases taper off.

176:

Agreed, particularly about "computer games cheat" - I have several turn-based computer games where the AI is allowed to make moves that a meat player isn't.

One of the best board games I've met is "Puerto Rico", where there are a massive number of "potential winning tactics", including "not having the foggiest idea what you're doing", so a novice player can actually beat experts!

177:

Wrt earthquakes and brick: no, of course we don't live in earthquake country. On the other hand, fault zones are pretty much a known hazard these days and fall into a basket of local constraints on construction; you don't want to build brick buildings near a fault, you don't bother with rooftop solar if you're north of Moscow and share a roof with 16 other households, and so on.

(Although I do wonder if it would be possible to do brick in an earthquake zone, by replacing the traditional types of mortar/cement with some kind of stiff but flexible resin or plastic. At which point your building is made of ceramic nodules in a flexible matrix which could presumably be tuned so that it doesn't resonate at earthquake frequencies and shake itself to bits. Make it a flexible shell around a rigid internal box frame built on shocks and you might have something relatively quake-proof.)

178:

I can't think of anywhere in Europe or North America where $sea_creature cards have gained traction as anything much more than a replacement for public transport season tickets as yet.

179:

Brick afficionados, you don't live in Earthquake Country, do you?
Well no, but then, other than the USians who live in California, and "Clare in Osaka" I can't think of anyone who posts regularly here who does, and if fact most of the golobal population don't.

180:

It’s not quite stuff but…

I think we’ll be paying too much attention to Pandas in 30 year’s time – long after their role as a standard bearer for environmentalism has become unnecessary. (In 30 year’s time I think folk will have got environmentalism and either rejected it or accepted it.) We’ll still prioritise cute animals.

We won’t be paying enough attention to soil microbial or insects.

181:

The biblical solution to building in an earthquake zone:

1 Kings 6:36 And he built the inner courtyard of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams.

182:

Brick afficionados, you don't live in Earthquake Country, do you? ...

Why would we want to? Or on an active volcano, either.

183:

unholy guy.

You're not a musician are you?

Don't get me wrong, I love the technology of music. My computer can emulate the sound of almost any instrument, and I have a MIDI keyboard with real wood keys that can play a virtual Steinway, or Bechstein in glorious detail.

But sitting down at a real 1910 Bechstein with it's particular feel and the real acoustics, of hammer on string and the natural resonance of real wood, the infinitely variable touch, the nuances of sympathetic resonance, is a very different experience.

A Martin acoustic guitar and a RockBand guitar controller can both play notes. Ask a guitarist what they'd rather play.

184:

Last weekend I went out to find a replacement blade for a hover mower. After visiting three outlets spread across a 3km radius I found it - and being an 'official' part, it cost €€. And likely, next week I will hit a rock again mowing the grass and need another one. Would I pay the same €€ for the ability to print a replacement in my home? And a replacement colander for the one that just cracked in the kitchen? A set of small hooks that I really need to put up in the outhouse that cost € each from same outlet I have to drive to/from? Er, yes.

Better to ask, since printer/copier shops exist (Kincos or equivalent), why does nearly ever home with a computer have a printer, commonly a 3-in-1 printer/scanner/copier? Because right-now and good-enough is unbeatable. 3D printing will become the same.

Another analogy. My wife works in the recruitment business (15+ years). She's always worked on her own, and most recently started using the tools available to professional recruiters or a number of social networking/media sites. She thinks the traditional headhunt/recruitment agency is going the way of the buggy-whip company within 5 years, because any half-skilled HR person with these tools can do the same job quicker, better and cheaper. Right now.

185:

More seriously, buildings need to be appropriate for their environment. This means that there is no single design that works everywhere.

The same is appropriate for vehicles. There are places where a Landrover is actually sensible. There are places where the pickup or SUV makes sense. The streets of Chelsea or Manhattan are not those places.

186:

I think a limit to the widespread domestic adoption of 3D printers might be their inability to print large things.

I have room in my flat for a machine about the size of a microwave. If a 3D printer was very useful and I was using it once a week I could possibly find room for one the size or a washing machine.

And that means that I’m restricted to printing objects that are smaller than 40 cm or perhaps at best 1 metre. That’s useful, but it means there are a lot of things I’d like to print that I can’t print because the domestic machine is too small. Picture frames, a new rail for my shower, a spade, some small barrels for making ginger beer.

I think I’d rather not have one and pay a little extra to have the guy who runs the hardware shop around the corner own, maintain, insure and learn how to use a 3m cubed printer and hold all the necessary feedstock.

Feedstock is also an issue. If I want one odd shaped bracket with unusual qualities I don’t necessarily want to buy a family sized bucket of exotic feedstock and then have to store it or throw it away.

(Of course it is true that I never microwave a whole turkey and I still have a microwave.)

187:

But today we're surrounded by clocks—fast, accurate, ubiquitous. Clocks are literally everywhere, inside every computer, cellphone, GPS unit... The wrist watch is, in fact, comprehensively obsolete.

This translates as:

I never spend more than 24 hours at a time out of reach of a phone charger and a mains power outlet;

I never risk getting wet or dirty (or else I have a waterproof phone);

I am never physically active enough that I need to worry about my phone being dropped or broken (yes, watches can break too, but they're a lot more robust and replacements are £6.99 rather than £150);

I never need to know the time when I am in an area where carrying an EM transmitter around would be dangerous, disruptive and/or illegal;

And, although I use my imagination for a living, I am completely unable to imagine anyone living a lifestyle different from mine in any of these respects.

188:

I don't think UHG can be that musical at all. I'm not a guitarist, and I'd still rather listen to the Martin, or a Strat, or a Les Paul, or a "Flying V"...

189:

You can also use the same argument to explain why the buggy whip is not obsolete either, because there are people who do drive buggies.

Despite which, it is, as a general use tool.

190:

Apparently you are not alone, a project to do exactly what you describe was able to raise a gajillion dollars on Kickstarter recently, I can't seem to remember the name though.

See the first comment on this post or just click this
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts/222888

It sort of reminds me of the Nokia Morph concept

191:

Er, there are uses for a buggy whip besides directing the equines which are powering the buggy! ;->

192:

See comment #1. (",)

193:

"Answer to both questions: board games."

Oh dude...

Go to boardgamegeek.com. Browse a little bit. Try out a few of the links down the left of the page.

Board-games are not about to go away - they are in fact growing. Why? Because board-gaming is about the game, a tactile experience, and the social interaction, something that video games cannot provide. There are scores of app implementations of modern strategy board-games, and none of them have done anything to reduce the popularity of the physical thing.

And for those who wanted to know just what you might do with a 3d printer? Board games, that's what.

Oh, and wargames? Still going strong, and not likely to die out. Computer games make the book-keeping very simple (they do it for you), but the problem is that they keep the book-keeping very simple (they hide it from you).

Board games are not, despite what people think, just snakes and ladders and monopoly. Things have moved on over the last 80 years.

194:

And they're in general use?

195:

I think you've read andyet's #109 exactly backwards: He's advocating face to face board game sessions as providing an experience that computer games (even PvP board game replications with the CPU just doing book-keeping) just plain can't.

I'd like to meet one or both of you in the games room at 8^2 and/or Satellite 4 if you're going!

196:

Yep, and that's why I wouldn't say something as daft as "buggy whips are comprehensively obsolete" either. And there are a huge number of people, right now, who wear watches for functional reasons that make them superior to looking at your phone. In the UK alone I'd estimate it's in the millions.
If you can't guess who any of them might be, then your imagination isn't up to much either...

197:

alzorra
The way things are going, I'm not sure that the elite economic elements are still going to be around in significant numbers by next year.
There will still be actors, musicians,entrepreneurs, and inventors around as rich people.

198:

In which case, I think your definition of 'obsolete' is at variance with that being used elsewhere, particularly by Charlie.

199:

bellinghame @ 184
Unless, of course you are using it as either a "bus" or as a non-hired truck.
But generally, yes - to go IN to London, I either cycle or take the train, to go OUT I either take the L-R or the train.
People are obsessed with "one-size-fits-all" in far too many categories of both "stuff" and methodologies [ Look at those who claim that "The Market always works" / "Socialism works" for ALL solutions, where it is clear that neither is the case ].
Why is this?

Danield William @ 185
The answer to that problem is, erm ... bolts or screws, or joints or clips isn't it?

200:

Obsolete (1) - Out of use or practice. Since people still do drive buggies (if only as a sport), we clearly can't use that definition.
(2) Out of date, unfashionable. Well, buggy driving is a minority sport so that arguably applies. OTOH I seriously doubt that the other use ajay and I are referring to is any less popular than it used to be. If people are less inclined to use buggy whips it's probably because other impliments are more commonly and easily available.

Chasing back to the original reference to wristwatches, I'd submit that we've just demonstrated that describing them as obsolete is just plain wrong.

201:

Not only do I have a waterproof phone, but its battery lasts for over a week.

I don't often find myself away from power for longer than that, but when I do I can cunningly extend its availability by turning it off. Anyone who really wants to talk to me will leave a message anyway.

202:

In a sane society, a bicycle would be something you took for granted (because you lived in a coherent, human scale community close to where you worked, shopped and played, and with a bicycle and public transport you could get wherever you needed to go. But the automobile saw to all of that, and so in today's real world, everyone needs access to a car. And a cyclist sees his bike as a marker for an important part of his ego.

Looking forwards, I wonder whether the increasingly image based communication will do away with the incredible burden of learning to read and write within the next thirty years. Will we take our cameras and screens/ goggles/ implanted viewing devices for granted in the same way as paper and biros are taken for granted now?

203:

Tying shoes is a dieing skill

204:


For a long time I was with you on that. Now I'm not so sure. It seems before gas gets to $5/gal (US pricing) enough profit shows up that we start digging it up where we considered it not worth it before. Then the price seems to drop down to a little north of $3/gal.

We're already there. Oil prices are hovering around the $100 mark for a long time (currently down to $93 on a depressed market). OPEC isn't opening the taps to help the global economy: the amount of oil being pumped is largely controlled now by supply, not demand.

I have colleagues doing contract work for oil companies; they are already drilling in fields that were not viable before and are doing so because the price is not going down. The volumes are simply not large enough to make a dent compared to growing demand from Asia. Why would you expect gas to drop below $3/gallon in the US?

205:

DIY vs. maker/hackerspace is interesting:

DIY - often rather poor work on relatively "normal" stuff.
maker - either obsessively fancy work on normal stuff, or amateur work on weird stuff.

DIY - the garage
maker - the hackerspace

> i.e private vs. collective

DIY - stereotypically, doing stuff to the suburbs. stuff you hauled there in the back of a big car.
maker - stereotypically, hacking on something electronic

DIY - oil burning, CO2 puffing car economy
maker - fixie riding urban hipsters, but watch out for the piles of used gallium arsenide

fairly obviously, a generational distinction. also, an architectural/urban planning distinction. also, one embodying a prediction on the future of the real estate market.

206:

Um, there are a lot of places (China, east Africa, Indonesia, the Himalayan arc the Andean cordillera, all of Central America, the Pacific Ring of fire) who deal with quakes on a semi-regular basis. I think that's the majority of the world's population areas right there, although most of them don't post here. In places like Chile, the fabled LA "Big One" would be considered a normal sized quake.

The scariest place I've been in the last decade was St. Louis. The city is built largely of brick, but it also sits near the site of the New Madrid quake. The problem is that a 5.0 earthquake in a place like, oh, New York, would cause as much damage as a 7.0 in Los Angeles, because New York doesn't have the infrastructure or culture to cope.

As for using brick in quake zones, it happens. The way you do it is to use the brick as a thin facade, rather than as a structural material. Older brick buildings, at least in LA, have been retrofitted with metal infrastructure to make them more stable.

The threat from quakes isn't just in the zone adjacent to the fault (and BTW, they're still finding faults worldwide--they're not well known), though that's the worst place to be. If you're unlucky enough to be next to a fault when it throws a 7.0 earthquake (say, on the UC Berkeley campus), you'll experience something like 1.2 gee lateral acceleration or more. Most buildings are not designed for that kind of stress--basically, they're being stood on their sides and shaken repeatedly. If you're that close, the building you're in will be seriously damaged. That's probably why UC Berkeley put the chemistry department and the virology lab across the street from the Hayward Fault, and built three dorms atop the fault. Ahem. At least they moved their health center a few blocks downwind.

However, serious damage can occur hundreds of kilometers away, if the quake is big enough (for example, see http://www.scivee.tv/node/21179 for the example of an 8.0 quake hitting Parkfield on the San Andreas). It's these outlying areas that benefit the most from reinforced structures, as they make the difference between widespread disaster and a merely bad day.

207:

"Also with regards to recycling ceramics, I've not yet heard of a way of taking some ceramics and recycling them into what they were before, whereas you can do that with metals and with glass. Because a lot of ceramics are mixes of high melting temp materials doing anything with them requires a lot of energy, more than glass or suchlike. "

ISTR that one of the most recycled materials in the USA at least is concrete :)

It's true that you can't just run ceramics through gizmo and come out with the raw materials, but that's frequently true of metal and plastics (with metal, it might be potentially possible, but it'd cost far too much).

208:

"2. Large Pets, would be Verboten , as they require too much infrastucture"

Au contraire, in a more urbanized world, large pets are status. (or stupidity)

209:

I expect it to crash due to irrelevance - Progress in battery tech does not appear to be anywhere near any kind of technological or physical limits, and past a certain preformance point, building anything other than electric cars just stops making any sense whatsoever. And with motoring demand disappearing over the course of one car replacement cycle.
- Long term projections for electric car penetration are *much* too conservative. Once preformance is there, nobody who is replacing their car is going to get a new gasoline burner. So once the switch starts happening, it will run to completion in about seven years, and towards the end of the cycle, holdouts will be ditching their cars because it is getting obnoxtious to get fuel and service for a combustion engine when 90% of the cars on the road are all-electric.
it will be extra special fun to work for utilities during this transition, as I cannot recall ever seeing anyone with an actual plan for "Electricity demand going up 5% per year for a decade"

210:

But today we're surrounded by clocks—fast, accurate, ubiquitous. Clocks are literally everywhere, inside every computer, cellphone, GPS unit.

It's true they are everywhere, but they are invisible. In the past you could walk around a city and there would be public clocks in abundance, so that not having a wristwatch was not a major problem. Today they have all but disappeared. Now you need access to the time on your person.

The wristwatch always had the dual role of utility and fashion. Once cheap electronic watches started to replace mechanical ones, we saw the birth of the Swatch and then later, the designer watch craze.

Give it a few more years and we will get jewelry phones, in some cases not identifiable as phones on casual inspection.

211:

"She thinks the traditional headhunt/recruitment agency is going the way of the buggy-whip company within 5 years, because any half-skilled HR person with these tools can do the same job quicker, better and cheaper. Right now. "

IMHO, the biggest question is the human element. In many companies, internal HR will have far less experience in recruiting that a recruiter has. They should have far more knowledge of their company's structure, function and culture, but that's a maybe.

I believe the argument that the biggest challenge to internal HR departments is shifting to doing those tasks which can't be outsourced (e.g., it's not like they actually run the payroll, they just have to make sure that people get paid).

212:

You're correct in principle, but I think you're looking at the wrong factor(s) in practice.

For me the most relevant factors on fuel type are:-
1) Availability of fuel. Electricity charge points other than "a domestic socket" are rare to non-existent here.
2) Cost of fuel. Is electricity really that cheap per unit power at present? Will it remain so if it becomes a dominant rather than niche fuel type in road transport?
3) Ability of fuel type to allow me to do certainly 200, preferably 500, miles in a driving day (say 10 hours, including refuelling time and any meal breaks). Here's the one where electricity coasts slowly to a halt, as I arrive at Eastercon about lunchtime Friday with my diesel car rather than just in time for the Dead Dog Party on Monday with an electric one.

213:

This made me think of reading the works of Edith Wharton, in which she spends a ton of time detailing the furniture owned by the wealthy. There'll be a whole page about dressers and armchairs.

214:

As I don't think anyone has put the link up, here's the link to Bruce Sterling's Last Viridian Design Note in which he talks about beds shoes and chairs, amongst many other things, and the importance of carefully choosing what you let into your life, and why.

David Mackay, in the always useful Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air, puts an energy cost on "stuff" along with transporting it as 60kWh per day per person which is about 20% of our daily total of 195 kWh/d/p. So reducing the amount of stuff in our lives can reduce our carbon footprint by a substantial amount.

If we start to see some sort of carbon tax being applied, in conjunction with marine bunker fuel price increases, and changes in chinese manufacturing practices (or a minimum wage/demographic change), the random crap that currently fills our lives is likely to get more expensive. (particularly plastic crap, as making plastic cutlery and kinder surprise toys, is a huge waste of a crucial industrial material that's likely to become more expensive as oil prices continue rising).

So in 30 or so years, i'd expect people to be looking back at photos or their parent's houses and remark at how full of useless, ugly things they were. (note, i hate random crap littering up the place, and going to shopping centres fills me with a deep annoyance at seeing people buying crap they don't need, and having to work longer and harder to do it).

I would say that in 30 years, after a infrastructure reinforcing/building spasm, people would be happily not paying enough attention to electricity and information supply again, but i suspect the upgrades necessary to move to a low-carbon/super-high bandwidth supply across the entire world will take longer than 30 years.

215:

You're right about HR, whose primary role is now pure admin and talent management (annual reviews, disciplinary procedures), Personnel in other words, but can also get saddled with incompatible roles like training and recruitment. A professional (i.e. good) Recruitment specialist is a specialised skillset, but rarely recognised as such in the organisations so reliant on them. Ideally should report directly to Ops Management rather than HR. Off topic, tho'.

Key point is that the second-order effects of 'social media' is to put tools in the hands of businesses that not only bypass the role of the recruitment agency, but also provide all the functionality of an agency recruitment DB with associated data mining, tagging, etc tools. She could use those tools to put together a relevant shortlist for a role that could be differentiated by sector (even company) match, experience, estimated cost, location and work model (p/t vs f/t) in 20 minutes. She could train a HR drone to accomplish the same in an hour, assuming they could get input from line managers as to shortlist fit and keywords, and kept a list of common boolean search strings. In 5 years, the above will no doubt be facilitated by shiny plug-ins/apps.

216:

I just received a mechanical pocket-watch from China. I decided I ought to have something which didn't depend on batteries. I doubt the finish on the case will wear well, and I wonder how the mechanism will last. Still, it looks nice.

217:

Computer games cheat more as the level of complexity increases. Mathematically speaking, chess is a very simple game with only a finite number of possible moves.

Supposedly it is impossible (even in principle) for a computer Go program to defeat a human Go master. Go has simple rules, but complex strategy that is beyond even the most complicated program to master.

Old fashioned hexagon map wargames and their PC equivalents are even more complicated. Its easy to program a series of moves that have a high probability of causing checkmate. But how do you program all of the economic, strategic, tactical and political advantages and disadvanteges of a decision to attack Pearl Harbor? You can't, the problem is too nebulous and too complicated. So the game AIs cheat.

Or worse, the human player can learn to game the sytem. For example, I really liked "Hearts of Iron", but I found an easy way for Germany to win. With the right timing a German airborne corps (built in the 1930s with perfect 20/20 foresight for just this purpose)can seize Dover and allow the Kriegsmarine to shuttle a half dozen panzer divisions into the captured port before the Royal Navy can react. Totally un-historical, but it works.

218:

I've played (ceilidh-band rather than orchestra) from PDF files displayed on an iPad; it works quite reasonably, but ceilidh-band pieces are short enough that you've just got a page of music on the pad.

Annotations on music are text plus a few standard symbols - spectacles, hairpin, reminder sharps and flats, indication that you should be using the alternate fingering - so perfectly possible to put on with an only lightly specialised program.

What would be lovely is something that listens to the rest of the orchestra and auto-scrolls; I've got a microphone and a dozen gigaflops of DSP in the iPad... indeed, on an iPad3 I'd have a camera, it would be a little embarrassing that a thousand lines of OpenCL can watch the conductor more effectively than I can, but not surprising.

219:

I used to live in a house built in the 1560s and updated c. 1720. It was my grandfather who did the electrical wiring, and there was various plumbing added.

The staircase was original. We heard that it fell down in the February 2008 Earthquake, but I never bothered to try to confirm that.

There's some variation in the reported location of the 'quake, but that house is about 8 miles from the epicentre of the 5.2 'quake

220:

OPEC says there is no reason for this cost of oil. They lowered prices and oil went up. For years I've read in serous economic magazines, that speculators are cornering oil and hold it back till they get the money they want. Not that long ago the price of gas was way up here because of the oil shortage. There was enough full oil tankers at sea to more than fix the shortage. When the price was right they did. By the time oil hits $300 there will be something else. If nothing else remember the cars from the 50s and early 60s. And I read that about %75 of the oil in wells is not pumped out because of cost.

221:

You are half right about go in that the space of games is too large to brute force, but dead wrong about it being impossible for a computer to beat humans in principle.

The abstractions that humans use to bring the game down to our level are quite powerful but there is no reason to believe we play perfectly.

Good humans still beat the best computers quite handily, but there is no reason to believe that will always be the case.

222:

Cost of fuel. Is electricity really that cheap per unit power at present? Will it remain so if it becomes a dominant rather than niche fuel type in road transport?

A Nissan Leaf consumes 213 watt hours per kilometer traveled. A Nissan Versa consumes 0.078 liters of gasoline per kilometer traveled. At a gas price of $1.05 per liter, the Versa has fuel costs of 8.3 cents per kilometer traveled. The Leaf would have to use electricity at 39 cents per kilowatt hour to reach the same cost per kilometer traveled. That would be 3.4 times the current average US retail price of 11.49 cents per kilowatt hour. It's also above the levelized cost of 28.9 cents per kilowatt hour for household rooftop PV power in sunny regions.

If all 4828000000000 annual vehicle-kilometers traveled in the US were Leaf kilometers, the vehicles would take 1026 terawatt hours. Current US production is about 4000 terawatt hours, so a one to one replacement of automobile transport with electric automobile transport would take about a 25% increase in electric generation.

223:

My experience in both sides of the hiring in the computer industry made me really dislike using recruiters. It's been better on the candidate side; I've gotten a couple of jobs through recruiters, although I've found many more by networking or just by sending in resumes. On the hiring side, recruiters have been a total pain, since they usually apply no useful filtering at all, just send in a pile of resumes which have at least one buzzword match. It would have been nice to have a recruiter with the brains or the willingness to filter out resumes which listed "10 years of Java development" 5 years after Java was first introduced outside of Sun, or resumes that show only experience in network administration for a senior development position. If I were still in the biz I'd be looking for ways to not use recruiters.

224:

I am skeptical about the animal claim. New Caledonian crows may have been observed having favorite tools that they carry around with them. Sorry I do not have many citations for you, since I cannot remember where I've read this. quick search finds a story on npr that mentions the possibility.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14962813

225:

A few years back, we dropped in on a friend in Reykjavik for a couple of nights. In the morning, he took us with him as he did his monthly cash run, getting a bag of Krona pieces from the back.

No notes, and only one size of coin.

It's the coin that the parking meters accept.

Otherwise, he just doesn't use cash: the credit card is used everywhere, including on the buses. As and when they get round to NFC cards there, he'll effectively have an Octopus/Oyster/Leap card.

226:

[pebble]

See the first comment on this post

Yes, and my "Doh!" followup apparently got stuck in moderation. (Spam paranoia turned up to eleven?)

Lesson learned: do not post at three in the morning, that is the time to pay more attention to the bed.

227:

Smallish industrial scale solar electricity is costed at 15c per kWh in sunny regions
http://www.solarbuzz.com/facts-and-figures/retail-price-environment/solar-electricity-prices

For reference, in the UK I pay (IIRC) around 60% more than that for my domestic mains.

228:

Othello is an example of a game that computers play much better than humans. Human abstraction mechanics fail at grasping Othello well, because of the XOR nature of the game. People aren't good at tallying the various ways that a given square can be flipped, and determining what the final state is of that square for a given scenario. Computers, of course, are very good at XOR. :)

229:

"On the hiring side, recruiters have been a total pain, since they usually apply no useful filtering at all, just send in a pile of resumes which have at least one buzzword match. "


First batch of crap like that - you tell the recruiter that the only way that you deal with any candidates from them is if they walk in to see you with the candidate in tow, in person (and make them buy lunch for all three of you).

230:

OT but relevant to skills and 30 years (not stuff and 30 years, but what the hey)...

Bruce:

My experience in both sides of the hiring in the computer industry made me really dislike using recruiters.

I $DAYJOB work for an IT consulting company in the SF Bay Area. Our secret sauce is that we figured out how to do recruiting and screening. It took 10 years to start getting it (the founders knew they needed quality, but didn't turn it into a methodology immediately), and another 5 years to have a consistent process that we can repeatably use, train new recruiters and technical interviewers in successfully, explain to client managers, etc. We've been refining it for the last 7 or so.

It is absolutely nontrivial - ultimately tens of man-years of recruiter, management, and high-end technical people with good people and interviewing skills effort level - to understand and build a framework and process for this.

I don't see this getting automated away anytime soon.

231:

Limited electric range is not a law of nature, it is a technical limit on current battery capacity. And it will not stay true for very long - this is, in fact, my mental benchmark for when gasoline becomes obsolote. - once 9 hours of driving at legal speeds is doable electric, gasoline will be stone dead. As for charge points - with range like this, most people will charge them from what amounts to glorified wall sockets - Nobody is going to install a quickcharge station in the garage, but then, as long as the car only needs one charge per day at most, that charge does not *need* to be fast. Come home, plug car in, unplug in the morning. This is the sort of thing that becomes as automatic a part of a daily routine as shaving, and with that pattern, the fact that the charging station is asking the car how much juice it needs and then planning the minimal cost charging profile to have that done by 6.34 am next morning does not matter, and will be completely transparent to the user. If you ran the battery nearly totally dry by an extended cross country drive, that profile will be "Charge at maximum rate for the ten cheapest hours of the night" but usually, the drain will be much less.

232:

d Brown,

So much misinformation (not blaming you, some serious lying has been going on). Whilst there is speculation and the usual fraudulent activities of the finance community, it's not the main driver.

Put simply, we have been on an 'all liquids' plateau for the past 7 years, actual normal crude production is declining, and available exports for you to import has been declining over the same period, by about 10%. And Chindia is only just starting with the car ownership, but have been signing up long term contracts with producers around the world ...

You can muck about with drilling/fracking tight oil, or drilling down more than Everest is up - but the reason you do that is because there's nothing better to drill. Such efforts are expensive (which is why oil has to be ~$100 now) and they produce poorly. It's a Red Queen race that we will lose as the old volume producing fields die off.

I'd suggest you stop listening to what you are being told is happening and do your own research - it's illuminating.

And as far as stuff we don't pay enough attention to - energy generation and the level to which we are dependent on a global society continuing to work to have it. Particularly the portable energy that enables transport and with it mobility, for us and our stuff.

And what's going to be obsolete? Planned obsolescence. If your gadget costs 3 times as much and is more difficult to get - you are going to want it to continue to work.

233:

The wristwatch is a completely obsolete object for me too, yet I don't carry a phone or any kind of computing device with me. In fact I don't even own a cell phone!

My car's basic system and my car's radio both give me the time. In the office there are devices everywhere giving me the time. As someone noted you don't see public clocks outside anymore but the moment you enter a shop or a public building there are tons of devices there giving the time.

I think that the relative popularity of wristwatches has to do with early rites of passage into near-adulthood. I got my first wristwatch (a Timex, which lasted forever) by accident in the early sixties, when I won it in a contest for which my mom had filled out the entry for me when she bought me a box of Legos at Silverberg's toy store. It wasn't a rite of passage at all. I had it on my wrist before everyone else in school through this total fluke. As a result I never saw the need for such things, the moment time displays became ubiquitous.

For many people in the US getting their first car was a rite of passage into near-adulthood, so they'll hang on to them and buying more from specialty shops when everyone else will be travelling in egg-shaped robot unicycles.

For some odd reason I often feel the deep emotional need to buy corded phones, even though I already have more of them than there are phone outlets in my little bungalow. I think that it's because for me it was an object linked to a rite of passage into near-adulthood, into some form of higher, mature responsibility.

If I'm still around in 30 years I think that I'll still be salivating over displays of big corded phones. I don't think I'll be alone.

234:

Every parking lot, street and supermarket will have charge points. That's where money will be made.

235:

Houses will have mailboxes long after the last post office is shut down. They're the lawn jockeys of tomorrow.

The richer you are, the more ornate and functional they'll be. Maybe the rich will write physical letters and hire private couriers to delivery them to their rich buddies.

Getting an actual letter delivered to your mailbox that you've been accepted into high society.

236:

Ian -

There isn't a clearly definable peak oil limit. It's an economic limit not a physical one.

There's a clear upwards curve of resources available (# of barrels of oil extractable) at given investments in drilling and extraction tech. The boom/bust cycle of oil prices fucks mightily with long term investment planning for how much to put in to new fields to maximize the monetary gain from them, but suffice it to say there IS more oil to be had if we need it, and current $100/bbl pricing supports extracting a heck of a lot more oil than we need at the current time.

The question of whether the price will stay there and investments in advanced recovery will pay off, or if prices will collapse and those investments would be lost, is what's keeping supply low now.

Over time the line shifts in a steady beat. There is more oil out there. We can get it. Shale and tar sands oil, steam recovery oil, deeper oil, oil requiring more desulphurication, etc.

The question of whether it's environmentally a good idea to keep going that way is more relevant than the economics or physics.

237:

There are beaches in Australia now where the state gives people free sunblock and hats to reduce skin cancer.

So, 30 years from now, just as we passed through the era when sidewalks and roads had tangles of magnetic cassette tapes, much of the world will be littered with disposable free hats, and ultracheap computers that people throw away when the battery dies. Of course, that kind of littering (as with chewing gum) will get you jailed in Singapore.

238:

@9:
- I think private citizen ownership of hand tools will be on the decline, especially tools for repairing cars, appliances and small electronics.
---
Quite possibly. I'm several sigmas out on the tool curve; several of my machines require riggers and heavy equipment to move. A large portion of my "stuff" is tools. On the other hand, machining odd bits or building racing engines has kept the bills paid when programming or admin work dried up, so it's a bit more than a hobby.

The neighbors are used to the sound of machine tools running, indifferent to pouring molten aluminum, and the glare of the arc welder reflecting off houses across the street. However, firing up a 700hp racing engine through glasspacks will have every child within earshot hanging off the fence...

On the various machine-shop forums the average age of toolheads seems to be at least 50, maybe higher. The "maker" crowd are decades younger, and while enthusiastic about repurposing old printer parts and bits from the local hardware store, they seldom stay with it long.

I have tools. I have books; rigorous culling keeps them down around 5000 or so. The gun collection isn't really all that large; I could fit them all in my car. I could carry all the clothing I own in a large cardboard box. Two of the computers are technically "tools"; one is dedicated to reprogramming automotive engine control computers, the other runs the desktop milling machine in the computer room. Maybe another box for "stuff"; meds, important papers, phone charger, etc.

I own some furniture, bedding, cooking utensils, kitchen appliances, towels, and the like, but I could walk away and leave them; they're easily replaced from flea markets or Craigslist.

And yes, I wear a wristwatch. They'll pry it off my cold, dead wrist...

239:

These people saying wristwatches are already obsolete should try spending a couple of weeks hiking. Phones are limited use because a) battery life and b) good chance of everything getting soakedat some point.

Okay, extended hill walking is a niche hobby.

I've seen someone wearing a small iPod on a wrist strap, with a full-screen clock app, that's neat.

240:

@106:
I've wondered why the construction industry still uses the same building materials - habit?
---
In the USA, local building codes plus the insurance industry.

Except for a few local areas where concrete block is the norm, the authorities and underwriters really, really want to see walls made of 2x3 or 2x4 studs with 3/8 or 1/2 inch chipboard stapled to it. That's what they know how to specify, how to inspect, how to insure, and they know all the relevant statistics for it. If you live outside a code jurisdiction area you can often build anything you want... but good luck getting it insured, or for selling it, unless the buyer can pay cash, because the finance companies aren't much interested in anything "different" either. It doesn't matter to them that it is common practice somewhere else.

I've run into this personally, and so has a friend, who spent over a year getting code variances and working with the finance and insurance people so he could use interlocking Styrofoam blocks filled with poured concrete, which was definitely unusual, but perfectly okay in other jurisdictions. He was only able to get a temporary exemption on kitchen counter heights; he and his wife are both other six feet tall, and they hated bending over too-low sinks and getting backaches. If they ever sell the house, the counters will have to be ripped out and replaced with "correct" ones...

Hey, it doesn't have to make sense. It's law, not engineering...

241:

@117:
Records: Transmetropolitan got it right about how poor public and business records are going to be in the future. Paper + proprietary formats + data-hoarding = needles rusting away in rotting haystacks.
---
...just ask all the people who are arrested and held in jail for days or weeks, on faulty data. In the 1980s the local PD had an extremely crude "criminal database" that apparently felt name and city of residence was a unique identifier; *twice* I was jacked up at gunpoint by a cop who had the computer jockey on the other end of the radio tell him I was a felon with an outstanding warrant. There were four people in my town with the same name, and two of them were habitual felons.

In the private sector, I used to be a system administrator for a medical billing outfit. They also did collections. They'd buy datasets from doctors or clinics going out of business, debt brokers, etc. I'd usually do the data conversions, picking apart the file formats and extracting the data into comma-delimited format they could import into their collections database. But quite often the data was corrupt to start with, which was probably why they were able to buy it cheap. When I tried to point this out they said not to worry, as long as there was a name and a phone number they'd just let the collections people deal with it... that kind of thing is probably why we get threatening phone calls from places we paid off TEN YEARS AGO...

Just last year I did some work for a local business, cleaning up their client database. Fully two thirds of the customers could no longer be found; most entries lacked incidental data like phone numbers or addresses, plus horrendous spelling errors.

I have a PO box I rented 32 years ago. I still get occasional junk mail for the previous boxholder.

Good data rots, but bad data is forever...

242:

@148:
The HathiTrust, a consortium of libraries combining their Google-digitized book collections
---
Hey, thanks Matt!

243:

"I still need a wristwatch for work. Checking my phone for the time is a faux pas, because they think I'm checking messages."

I think what's actually going to go away is the social convention that some people are more important than others just because they happen to be in the same room as you.

244:

Like I said, I don't even own a cell phone, so the battery life of a phone is irrelevant for me in any discussion of the advantages of a wristwatch.

If I ever went wilderness camping again for a few days the last thing I would want to bring along would be a wristwatch (assuming someone gave one to me) because the whole point of a real vacation for me is to be able to forget about time.

245:

Brick afficionados, you don't live in Earthquake Country, do you? ...

And don't really plan to voluntarily. :)

Yes, while brick is well suited in many parts of the world for many reasons, is not well suited to places where the earth moves for no apparent reason to the people in the area at the moment.

246:

People are obsessed with "one-size-fits-all" in far too many categories of both "stuff" and methodologies ...
Why is this?

Because people seem to be wired to strongly desire simply answers to problems.

And avoiding the real problem seems to be a simple answer that gets used a lot. :)

247:

Why would you expect gas to drop below $3/gallon in the US?

I didn't say that.

248:

large pets are status. (or stupidity)

On unexpected genetics. We adopted two pups from a stray mom that was about 30 to 35 pounds. Pups grew up to be 65 pounds when in great shape. Oh well.

249:

George @236

Although higher prices correlate with having questionable fields that you can bring online, geology rather than economics rules the roust.

Take the tight oil as an example; the current darling of the yanks. It's not new technology to frack the rock to extract oil (rather 1960s), but the prices at $100 make it viable.

However

Those wells in part have such high costs because they have such swift decline rates (90% pa is typical). As such, if you want to double the rate of production, you need to double the number of rigs, crews, support, everything. It's not a case of just having a few teams, adding new fields every year and accumulating production and money - it's that red queen race I talked about.

Same with the other expensive prospects - you need more teams, more equipment, more hassle - just to stand still (with your old fields declining).

Oh, and at some point (~$105) the price of oil tips everyone into recession again; and the demand collapses.

The physical peak is real, and although there is an economic component to why it occurs exactly when it does, the primary mover is geology and pure systems complexity.

250:

I have a PO box I rented 32 years ago. I still get occasional junk mail for the previous boxholder.

A while back after a move I was given a phone number that used to belong to a lawyer. We'd get about one call a month. One time we got home and the answering machine had a call from a guy in jail wanting to be bailed out. Not sure what he did when he didn't get a call back.

The land line number that I had, and just dropped, for over 20 years had belonged to a company that installed solar panels in the 80s. Water based systems I think. And went bust like many of them. We got a few calls asking about warranty repairs and such and had to give them the bad news.

251:

I didn't even mean on that sort of level of "cheat" where you can't actually see it.

Consider 2 pieces with move 3 spaces, one meat-controlled and the other CPU-controlled in a corner.

If the meatpiece is in A1 and the CPUpiece in B2, then the only move the meatpiece is allowed is "attack B2". If you reverse the positions so that the CPUpiece is in A1, it will be allowed to move to A4 or D1.

252:

Mailboxes?

It was ages until I understood what the weird tubes-on-posts in American TV programs and movies were.

(The US-style mailbox simply doesn't exist in the UK, or indeed those bits of Europe I've visited while paying attention.)

253:

I have friends who've played everything from "pop group" up to "full orchestra / chorale", and yes including ceilidh/wind bands. Pieces that use less than 2 sides of A4 are rare.

254:

#222, and anyone else who's convinced themselves about "battery electric will replace petroleum cars".

Where is your breakthrough in battery energy density coming from? I'm not saying that it's impossible that it could happen, but we are about on the bleeding edge of what battery electric can presently do so you need to show that a breakthrough that can increase charge density 6 times is possible.

What makes you think that electricity's present favourable position wrt petroleum in regard to vehicle fuel duty will continue if battery electric transport becomes, say, 20% of the national fleet?

255:

Lithium/Air has the required energy density - about 10x Li-ion

256:

Is that always the fault of the recruiter though? Back in the 1990s I saw several firms carrying multiple adverts, sometimes as $recruiter acting for $BigCompany, asking for several years experience of $softwareVnew when $softwareVnew had only been released the previous month, so only $softco and their beta testers had any experience whatever of $softwareVnew.

257:

Off the top of my head I can think of several (at least 10) cities in the UK that have populations several times that of Iceland

258:

Ok, now has anyone made a LiAir cell that will take the proposed and implied 3653 mixed shallow and deep drain/charge cycles without losing significant capacity? (based on a now pessimistic 10 years vehicle life)

259:

No. The problem has obviously not yet been solved otherwise we would have them now. However, it is an example of a battery technology that could easily give the same car range as petrol.

260:

When we get wrong calls, they're for the Cambridge Pet Crematorium, which had the number up till about 15 years ago. CPC is now on a different number.

So we have the added knowledge that the caller has a dead animal, one they've possibly had since not long after the number change.

It doesn't happen very often these days, perhaps once or twice a year, but we still keep the CPC number next to the phone. It's the least we can do.

(And no, we really don't know why they changed the number. They're still in the same dialling code area. Moving their premises would be ... tricky.)

261:

The Leaf has a range of 73 to 109 miles according to whose test protocols you follow. I think the Leaf would be selling faster than sliced bread if it were half the price. I don't think it would sell much faster if it had 6 times the range, at the increased cost that implies. We need lower cost manufacturing more than a physics/chemistry breakthrough to make EVs really popular.

There's an analogy with PV power: it's hard to improve the conversion efficiency. Mainstream boring-old-silicon panels are already within a factor of 3 to 4 from the absolute physical limits of solar power conversion and about a factor of 2 from the specific limits of silicon. Over the last 35 years the average module efficiency has only about doubled. But absolute efficiency matters much less than price, and price has tumbled in the same time.

With batteries, as PV, technical figures of merit as well as economic figures continue to improve, albeit at a much less heady pace than people have come to expect from microelectronics. Take a look at enviasystems.com if you want to see a very substantial and very recent advance in lithium battery technology.

I don't think EVs will ever take over 100% of the vehicle market, but I think they will take the lion's share as battery energy density improves and (much more significant) costs come down. Even at 100% the marginal increase in electric demand is not vast compared with existing demand, and there is every reason to think that electricity will remain significantly cheaper than comparable motive power from liquid fuels.

262:

Someone's taken the same idea and gone a little overboard.
(Warning for the squeamish: bodymod-in-progress video. Pause it at the start and skip right to the end to miss the blood)

263:

If there was an electric Smart car at the same cost as a normal fuel Smart, with a range of 100 miles I would buy one. I very seldom do more than 100 miles in a day.

264:

There ya go: I very seldom drive less than 100 miles in a day. My car spends much of its time parked -- then I go on a 450 mile round trip (as I just did earlier this week).

I'd take a battery-powered vehicle if it came with a range of at least 150Km and rapid recharge (not significantly longer than half an hour to hit 80% would be acceptable), or an optional trailer with a diesel jenny pack for ferry use. But as things stand, electric cars only work for folks whose longest travel radius is around 50Km. That's great as a second car for households with somebody who commutes, but it's as much use as a chocolate fireguard as a primary household vehicle.

265:

Thanks Charlie; that exactly my point. Ok, most of my driving days involve a low 20s number of miles, but I do 100 to 500 miles in a day typically at least 8 times a year. Usually I'm doing a bit over 200 miles at around the UK single carriageway limit so even the Leaf's claimed 109 miles would mean 2 recharges.

266:

Actually, driving more than 200km in one stretch is a bad idea; driver fatigue is a real killer. Having to stop for a half-hour recharge would enforce driving breaks (why not have a coffee and chill out while the car's re-charging?). The problem is that today's battery tech would require 6-12 hour recharge breaks, which is unacceptable. Make it 30 minutes per 100 miles and, while overall journey times will increase noticeably, it's not a deal-breaker unless you're trying to do over 500 miles in a day.

267:

The rapid charge problem seems to have been solved, at least in the lab. A bigger problem will be the power. 100kWh in an hour is 100kW. Even with 230VAC that's more than 400A - far from trivial to deliver it. Three phase voltage still only halves it at best.

268:

Which brings us back to the days of swapping horses on a long journey.

269:

I drive more than 100 miles in a day probably no more than 5 times a year. The rest of the time the longest haul is 60 miles to London where I stay over. On a daily basis I often travel to MK and back - again about 60 miles worst case.
So an electric Smart and a hire car occasionally would make a lot of economic sense.

270:

Freiburg to home: 940 km, still felt fine at the end (pausing only for a quick lunch somewhere in France, and for the Dunkirk to Dover ferry).

But that's driving a large cruising car on autobahns/autoroutes/motorways pretty much all the way. I've been exhausted by much shorter journeys, because they're on hard-to-drive roads, or in hard-to-drive conditions, or in hard-to-drive cars.

A case in point: in the same car, a couple of weekends ago I drove 250 miles in the course of a day and felt dead afterwards, because the whole lot was in heavy rain. Same car. Mostly motorway. Just the weather different.

271:

Yesterday I did 230 miles, straight up the A1 (Leeds to Edinburgh). So tiring I had to go to bed for a couple of hours when I arrived. Yes, there was torrential rain: I didn't get to switch the windscreen wipers off the whole way. Weather conditions are a very non-trivial factor in driver fatigue ...

272:

I like driving in the rain and/or at night.
I find it quite relaxing.

273:

#266, 270 and 271 - The all A-road trip is one I normally do at least 6 times (sometimes 8) a year. Also, I know tricks for keeping alert, like doing Police style commentary driving to myself.

Also my typical choice of car is a biggish, brawny turbo-diesel so I can minimise environmental fatigue.

Ok, an electric car could be even more quiet inside but is more likely to induce "I'm nearly out of fuel and need to go $miles before I can fill up" stress.

Also, It's not for everyone (but will go away if it's not for you) but have you tried "Rain-X"? It makes windscreen wipers pretty much unnecessary at speeds over about 35mph (depending on exact car obviously: I've used and liked it on several different makes and models though).

274:

Night driving with a slight mirk is actually easier than daytime; you can see anyone who's using their full headlights is there before they're physically visible.

275:

Night? No problem. I've even done an overnight drive Munich to Cambridge at night, though I will concede I was 20 years younger then.

The main problem about night driving for me is that I'm more likely to be short of sleep then than during the day.

Rain? No, not nice at all.

As for the A1 - it's fine down this end. I think there's only a handful of roundabouts left now between the Stirling Corner in London and just south of the Scottish border. Hmm, Biggleswade (x2); Sandy; Black Cat; Buckden. Don't know of any others. On the other hand, it's a tedious road in its more northern sections. Scenic, but tedious.

276:

Rain-X looks interesting - I might try it

277:

From what you've said about your driving patterns I'll repeat the comment about it only really working over about 35mph. This may not be relevant, but most of the people I know who do mostly short trips also do mostly low-speed town driving.

278:

When I got my first car I used it to explore the city I live in. I was surprised at how many homes in the older and wealthier portions of the city had garages that had originally been barns.

I expect automobile ownership to decline and the majority of the newer vehicles will be much smaller than some behemoths that was still popular in suburban areas of Canada and the USA. Many newer homes (less than 40 years old) have two car garages that will be surplus to requirements. How will these garages be purposed? Workshops? Storage? Living space?

Re: watches. I stopped wearing wristwatches 20 years ago. Between my own tendency to smash the crystals due to clumsiness and the fact that I could get the time from wall clocks or off my PC (or dumb terminal prior to PCs) at work, I saw no value in wearing a wristwatch. A few years ago I found cheap watches ($10-15) that were designed to be attached to backpacks and starting attaching one to my belt loop so I could have the time if I needed it, without dragging out my cell phone (assuming I remembered to charge it or to carry it).

Re: Pens. I have noticed that my two teens seldom use pens or pencils except when working on RPGs or signing things.

279:

Most of my driving is motorway or dual carriageway, so 60mph+ is the norm. How long does the treatment last?

280:

It's a while since I bought any, but a normal size bottle applied to a clean windscreen gives you enough for 2 full treatments, which will probably last about a year, for about £6.

281:

It has been pointed out before, I think including on here, that an electric car for extremes of temperature is a bit trickier. For instance how well would one cope with winters, especially with the need for AC and cold start capability? Usually a car engine has lots of waste heat to throw at the problem of heating the car interior, but an electric one will need a spare battery set just for that.

282:

My first thought on that is, if I am on holiday, and in the country rather than the town, and beyond reach of mobile phone signal (and even in England there are places that are), what do I want to know the exact time for anyway?

If I wore a watch (I don't) then leaving it behind when I went for a walk would be just one of the pleasures of leaving work and routine behind.

(And yes I understand why divers would need watches, and loonies who go half-way up mountains with nothing on but their knickers and titanium-reinforced toeails, but there's not many of them)

283:

Supposedly the original use case for the wrist watch was very military indeed; artillery officers in the first world war needed to know their time-of-flight and time-on-target accurately, and dropping the damn thing was not an option.

284:

The idea of the wrist-wearable all-purpose electronic device presupposes technology to avoid that "larger display item". That could be some kind of HUD and bone-conductivity device as simple as a small temporarly adhesive device placed maybe on the corner of the jaw behind the ear? Not so far fetched given what we're already seeing.

285:

Here in Canada the repurposing of garages is a done deal. It seems that most households store a few hundred dollars worth of junk in their garage whilst happily leaving a $40,00 car out in the driveway.

Have to agree that a wristwatch as just a wristwatch is gone - it's now either a symbol of wealth or a statement that one is too important and has assistants to carry one's phone. Or maybe a dollar-store digital as a symbol of poverty.

Right now however I can't imagine ever not carrying a pen although I admit that may yet change. The galloping pace of public illiteracy may yet lead us to something like fingerprint readers as a substitute in the mode of "X - his mark"

286:

So you don't miss buses, trains, arranged rendezvous, last orders, last post, latest check-in time for hostel or campsite, weather reports on a radio with failing batteries. Also, to find north without a compass.

287:

paws4that @ 254
Charlie Stross @ 264

Recent news in reference the impracticabilities of
e-vehs.

1. a fast-charging technology that will enable the recharging of most electrified vehicles with compatible systems in as little as 15-20 minutes.

http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.print.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2012/May/0503_combocharging

2. IBM's proven 500-mile battery
http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/smart_grid/article/battery500.html

This is a developing field, look how god-awful the A Ford Model-T is in comparison to a 2012 Merc S-class.
A little patience before resigning the E-Veh to the scrapyard of history.

288:

Perhaps not.

According to "Revolution in Time" by David S. Landes, there was a shift in taste from pocket to wrist watches. No mention of WW1 forcing it along.

Moreover, there was a huge increase in the manufacture and use of watches all the way through the 19th century, with specific stimuli including the American civil war, when manouvring large armies required accurate portable timepieces. This rise in manufacture was achieved through improvements in manufacturing technology, many spearheaded in the USA then to some extent adopted by the Swiss, the great watch manufacturers of that era.
Perhaps you are thinking of actual army issue watches?

289:

In 30 years, our operating system interfaces will be much better than they are now -- and probably laughably obsolete compared to where they *could* be. Designing good interfaces is Hard, but getting mass acceptance (even of extremely good ones) is Much Harder.

290:

A few years ago a group of friends went walking in the HIghlands. We needed to know the time in order to be able to catch the train back to Edinburgh. Of course we had mobile phones as well, but watches and knowing the time were still used.

291:

I don't know, man. A big old swinging chain of janitor keys really gets the ladies going.

292:

Wrist watches appeared around 1880: that was when a batch was produced for the German Imperial Navy. A little later, wrist watches were a jewelry item for ladies.

I see conflicting dates suggested for the "military" watch, a man's wristwatch. It may go back to the Boer War, but it would be the First World War when it became well-known.

293:

Cars are quite small compared to rooms in buildings, and I'd expect second-generation electric cars to have some kind of cavity-foam insulation in door panels, under the floor, etc. It should be practical to keep the interior above freezing (except on sub-zero nights) with a 50 watt greenhouse heater, and ramp them up to something approximating comfort with a 200 watt boost as the owner is on their way out their house to collect the car. If this is done while the vehicle is plugged in and trickle-charging it should be a barely noticeable increment on the power bill.

What's more to the point is that most folks will get some serious sticker shock when they see how much electricity a car guzzles compared with, say, a house; I gather most tenements in Edinburgh have distribution boards that trip if you try to draw more than 70kW through them, but that corresponds to a little under 100 BHP -- your car can, with only an hour's driving a day, suck as much electricity as your home.

294:

My janitor key crack got me to thinking about ceremonial garb. I suspect, given the seeming ongoing trends of narcissism and ostentation, that many other items will be repurposed into vanity/jewelry display items. It would seem, in the spectrum of dress, from informal jeans and t-shirt uniform to most formal white tie and tails, that certain symbolic items will continue. Think even those oversized wallets on chains. Why not ostentatious (and highly symbolic) janitor keys or something similar?

295:

IBM doesn't have a 500 mile range lithium air battery suitable for EVs. They have an ambition to develop one. I prefer to look at the upside of the downside: what if the fundamental battery technology doesn't get any better than what's already been demonstrated today, but it does get significantly cheaper?

For one thing, the range would improve if the batteries were cheaper: a Leaf offers less battery storage than could fit simply because the extra storage costs too much right now. The Tesla Model S is going to offer a range of 160 to 300 miles depending on how much battery you're willing to pay for.

Even more importantly, lower prices would drastically accelerate uptake. A Leaf is the least expensive pure EV in the US at the moment, and even so financial payback within the warranty period requires that you live somewhere with quite expensive liquid fuels and inexpensive electricity. But get it half as expensive and it becomes the default choice for second cars in a 2-car non-rural household.

PHEVs and EVs are also a great answer to the question "what use is renewable energy when it's intermittent?" EVs can charge any time they're parked and there is an electrical outlet nearby. The charge scheduling is quite flexible unless you're taking a long road trip. If you could displace 25% of vehicle-kilometers traveled from liquid fuels to renewable electricity, that would be huge: household economic savings on transport motive power, macroeconomic benefits in rebalancing trade for any nation that's a net petroleum importer, CO2 emissions averted, and local air quality improvements.

For the future to feel good and futurey, I want it even a step better: the puttering-around-town vehicle to disappear from households because AI-driven electric taxi service is so cheap and ubiquitous. Who cares what the battery range is on an individual taxi? On a long trip the fleet scheduling system will just ask me to transfer between vehicles every couple of hours as each one nears the point where it has to recharge.

296:

In addition, there is the flow battery concept that would allow refueling/recharging much like the current gas station model. Unfortunately the company developing this A123 is in trouble, but AFAICS the technology concept is sound.

There seems to be more new ideas in battery development over the last few years than over the previous 50 years. One of these approaches is hopefully going to be a winning solution that finally allows electric cars to compete on most fronts with IC engines.

297:

Serious change in computer use/design/architecture coming ...
Memristors seem to have finally made it almost to production (next 3-4 years).
10 times faster & 10 times cheaper (?)
Initially with "exotic" materials (HP) but newer research suugests SiO structures are developable.
This is for both memory & computing, and appears to be capable of being layered down - meaning interconnection(s) can be much more multiplex.
See:
HERE
and
Here as well
Interesting!

298:

In the cases where I have experience, yes, it was the recruiters' fault originally. In many of those I wrote the job requirements myself; in others I got to review them before they were sent to the recruiter. In all those cases I was not the hiring manager, merely the senior technical guy or the first level manager (or both), so I didn't get to negotiate with the recruiter. So, yes, there was responsibility on my manager or my grandmanager when I objected to the recruiters' lack of filtering and my manager refused to deal with the problem or failed to understand why it was an issue.

This sort of problem is just one of the reasons for my cynicism about technical management, and for why I have been so ecstatic when I found a manager who knew what he or she was doing (I can name 2 whom I would walk through fire for, 3 or 4 I'd walk through water for, and dozens I'd like to inter in the earth :-)

299:

We can finally get away from having mechanical memory devices! Should have happened decades ago.

300:

And we've been saying that for decades (I worked with the bubble memory devices that Intel was selling in the 1980s, and we were predicting that the 4 Megabit chips would make hard disks obsolete ...) I predict that at least the first few generations of commodity holographic memory (due any year now) will use mechanical addressing for cost and reliability.

301:

The whole argument about watches is foreign to me; I gave up wearing a watch in the mid 1960's (except for a brief period while working in Silicon Valley when the company I worked for gave me an LED watch on my 5 year anniversary). I had a summer job in high school where every 3 minutes for 8 to 10 hours a day I counted the number of customers in each of the checkout lines of a supermarket. After a few days I could tell when 3 minutes was up to an accuracy of 5% or better without the watch, and after that summer I had no desire to know the time accurately again for a long time.

Another thing that's likely to become a status item is paper notepad holders. There's a market for covers for notepads now, embossed or printed with company logos and such. They're bound to become more baroque in design and more important as status markers along with pens as more people use tablets for notes and not using a tablet becomes a mark of status.

302:

I've been reading about holographic memory for 30 years. One outrageous prediction was that we might get up to 100GB on a drive! I don't think its going to happen. memristors are probably good for up to something the equivalent of 8TB thumb drives.

303:

Who says solar paint has to be black?

304:

It might not have to be, but so far panels have been broad spectrum absorbers. I suppose they might be tailored to reflect a very specific visible wavelength not being used for conversion and thereby appear colored.

And the latest news:
http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/green-tech/solar/us-imposes-much-stiffer-tariffs-on-chinese-solar-manufacturers

305:

Electric cars will be a success, as soon as the price is justified by their performance. This doesn't mean that e-cars should have better performance. This doesn't mean that e-cars just need to get cheaper.

A Renault Twizy costs as much as a conventional car, if you overlook the fact that you must pay a monthly fee for the battery. But who are you kidding? It can't hold a candle to any car whatsoever. Be it lack of doors, range, speed, number of seats or whatever you want. Given its price, it's crap.

In fact, you should seek refuge in audacity.

Make e-cars crappier!

If you build an e-car like a glorified motorized 3 or 4-wheeled bicycle with basic weather protection, you could achieve a range on the order of 100km with nothing more fancy than a conventional car battery. Speed would be limited to about 50km/h, but there is no reason why this couldn't be sold for significantly less than 1000 Euro - which is roughly the point where it's worth its price.

306:

You seem to be describing Clive Sinclair's Sinclair C5.

It did Not end well.

307:

I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Socks.

Socks. We barely notice them. But their utility is ubiquitous, and their future is bright.

As a wrapper for a moving/flexing part of out body, they are an idea bit of apparel to generate renewal, unblockable, energy to power our devices.

Newer, breathable, sweat-thru materials will make our feet cooler and drier in the summer, warmer in the winter, and barely damp in the rainy season.

And when flame-proofed as factory standard, they will save lives during escapes from fires.

They are an obvious location for memory-weave materials that will store/cache our daily data prior to upload to more permanent storage. Who, after all, will forget their socks, even if you mislay your jacket (or lose it in a mugging)?

As consumers become more discerning, we can expect socks to soon come in left and right pairs (as shoes have since, surprisingly, only the mid 19th century).

And finally, in a last-resort situation, the common sock will be usable as a strainer to create purer drinking water.

308:

What, things like these? ",)

309:

"The galloping pace of public illiteracy may yet lead us to something like fingerprint readers as a substitute in the mode of 'X - his mark'"

You're an arsehole.

310:

This is your yellow card.

If you disagree with him you're welcome to say why, and to use irony, wit, and sarcasm; but responding to elitist snark with mere abuse merely lowers the tone of the discussion.

Do it again and your comments may be unpublished by the moderators.

311:

The moral being, do not insist on your employees being sycophants who only tell you what you want to hear. I imagine just about everyone working on the C5 knew it was a pile of crap.

312:

Something I do hope disappears is the tie.
Joining other ludicrous fashions such as the ruff and codpiece.

313:

I'm with you on that wish. Alas, it doesn't seem to show any sign of happening in a hurry.

314:

You mean "Soylent Green " ? '.. which ' is a 1973 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and, in his final film, Edward G. Robinson. The film overlays the police procedural and science fiction genres as it depicts the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including "soylent green".

The film, which is loosely based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison, won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1973.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green


Since I'm 63 years and a few months young this is within the realm of my ...' I saw that at the movies before there were video recorders ' experience.


Sorry if that seems a bit on the bitter and twisted side as responses go but ... OH FUCK !! Donna Summer has just died and ... " .. 3 hours ago – DONNA Summer's lung cancer is believed to have been caused by toxic dust particles that smothered New York after Al-Qaeda brought down ... "

The 70s feel to me as if they happened yesterday but, given Our Hosts time reference for Stuff, I do recall what we were wearing and doing way back then in the distant past and so in general categories ..

' We ' weren't listening to personal music players unless 'we ' had ...

http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/homework/war/1970s.html

and we weren't as a rule wearing Hats ..which 30ish years before that date would have been perfectly usual if not required by all proper and improper persons wherever you were ... " Get your HAT we're Going Down Town " as the American Cops would say whilst here in the UK flat caps were the mark of the working MAN ..the Safety Helmet of the day ..and any other headgear was a class marker for Men who were a step or two up the social ladder and women who were wearing Sunday Best or Social/Wedding Occasion Bonnets or Head-scarfs in the working week .. working week. This usually being domestic work since women didn't 'work' after they married and had children.

The 'Stuff ' that you carry is a marker for your social class and Rank in that Class ..and yes this does include the US of Americans as reflected in the Terribly upper Middle Class of the American series " MAD MEN "of the present day reflection of the Glamor of Way Back Then in The Day.

So thirty years or so and a bit on and here we are.

Whats in our pockets and on our bodies now as STuff and What in £30$ years?

Well back when I were a LAD phones in the North East of England were of limited accesses even in business and commerce ..Really, truly, in my first Employers Building in 1965 the internal .. Heavy Bakalite handset on a wall bracket ..telephone didnt link to outside lines but was part of an internal building to building phone system with a switch board operator - who could throw a switch and disable the entire system if she felt overburdened - whilst the OUTSIDE LINE was in a kind of Mahogany Lined Phone Box on the Floor below 'my' office /workshop and that phone would only work if you were a in possession of the Codes. Think in terms of the Technology of " The Ipcress File "

"The Ipcress File is a 1965 British espionage film directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Michael Caine, Guy Doleman, and Nigel Green. The screenplay by Bill Canaway and James Doran was based on Len Deighton's 1962 novel, The IPCRESS File. It has won critical acclaim and a BAFTA award for best British film. In 1999 it was included at number 59 on the BFI list of the 100 best British films of the 20th century. "

Way back then and almost anyone who emptied his pockets would have stuff relating to Smoking ..remember Smoking? .. and public places would be filled with clouds of cigarette smoke and films of the era and the era before then would be filled with people lighting up with matches taken from boxes or cigarette lighters.

Cigarette packets were developing flip tops but cigarette cases were still in use whilst cigarette smoking was something that everyman did if he wasn't to be regarded as being ODD .. the late Great John Brunner was extremely knowledgeable about fictional Characters and their smoking habits. John not only knew what The Saint smoked in any given period of The Saint series but also knew where Simon Templer had probably bought his smoking materials at any given period in the Saga of The Saint.

Alas Johns own smoking habits were probably what killed him ..he kept his cigars in the salad compartment of his fridge as being much better that the traditional Humidor of an earlier age.

Anyway,whats Now and To be Equivalents of Ciggies?

Here and Now would be sweets in plastic packets and instant snacks also in plastic bags ..potato crisps and such?

30+ years? I rather think that non bio degradable bags of the plastic kind will have vanished. Over here in the U.K. plastic shopping bags are gradually vanishing away whilst plump children still discard their crisp packets on the street - as do their parents when they think that people aren't looking - but this cant go on.

Mind you people do now pick up their furry friends dog shit and so the streets are much less shit soiled than they used to be ..oh and also people don't routinely spit the industrially diseased contents of their guts onto the pavements since heavy industry has died in the Developed World.Though this spitting of phelm has been replaced by the slightly more hygienic but more resilient residue of the spitting of chewing gum ..30 years on no chewing gum on pavements, but biodegradable chewing gum in biodegradable packets in pockets that will vanish away just as soon as its spat out?

Er, yes I know, all very prosaic, but I thought that a change from electronic High Tech Stuff might be refreshing.

Replacements for Ciggies and such ? Hum ..Legal Uppers /Downers sensory mood enhancers taken as inhalators or dermal spray injectors/patches? This would be beyond medical enhancements of course and, as entertainment would/might be permitted on the rule of 'Its legal unless your elbow meets my Eye " principle.

We may see a cure for obesity but on a time frame of a few decades the problem may be too complex for a one off 'cure ' So, maybe ongoing fat draining treatments in the then Medically Enhanced- para medically qualified Beauty Therapist staffed - Shops on the High Street? Fat draining as common as hairdressing?

On medical enhancement? The 30 +then equivalent of wrist watches ..which will still exist as jewelry, for even when I'm 90 + you aren't going to deprive me of my Rolex Oyster Perpetual stainless steel wrist watch and, as has been mentioned, lots of people will still be buying clockwork as Artwork .. will be medical monitors of various complexity, dependent upon your income and importance. These monitors will link to the then equivalents of up-dated Defibrillator Units with enhanced on-board diagnose and treatment to stabilize the casualty on site..thereafter someone, or Something, will decide on whether or not you deserve /have earned/ or can afford life extension beyond state provided basic medical given by your polity .. " Thou shalt not kill but needs not strive officiously to keep alive "


http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2009/02_06_2009/story5.htm


Think of the development of the standard Ambulance grab and transport to Hospital Casualty Department of 30 years ago toward the stablise in situ and only then transport to hospital para medical teams of today, and then consider the possibility of medical stations that will be as ubiquitous then, 30 years +, on as Phone boxes were only a little while ago. MED Stations that would be unlocked by an alert from a body monitor, whose wearers first indicator of, say, a stroke might be a gentle personal ALERT and a MED Station nearby unlocking its automated Medical Unit that would hasten to his side.

SO " Stuff "? Medical Monitoring and Treatment in all its fashionable variety ..wristwatch equivalence variety.Given the aging population there will be a lot of it about as personal and street furniture.


" STuff " that you wont notice?


Er ..clothes and shoes/boots that will fit as opposed to the cheap one size fits nearly all sort of clothing that most of us have now?

Given really cheap body scanners - whose development will be rushed onward by enhanced security driven by fear of terrorists - and assembler/auto machine fabricators that will produce clothing to exact specification we might just get back to half sizes and jeans that actually fit you and shoes the same.

We will pause here that I might sympathize with all of you who are caught in the spider web of those interminably long queues at airports that I'm not going to stand in given that my spinal condition makes even bumpy train travel a problem these days....... Right thats IT ... two minutes is all that you planet destroyers get given that I'm suffering the worst Spring weather that I can recall and its All your Fault!

More stuff that the young wont really notice since it will be taken for granted? No more male pattern baldness. Unless a bald head is a fashion choice of course...this sort of thing seems to crop up every couple of days just now ...


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17457098



Wrinkles the same ..Women seem to be obsessed
with wrinkles and similar such signs of the cosmetic aging process whilst we men merely Grey a little bit about the temples and became distinguished as befits our fundamental nobility of character. Anyway there will be no advertising for such treatments since they will be taken for granted as will be perfect teeth ..that, come to think of it, may contain medical implants. We will still carry Makeup ..men will carry make up too if you regard really effective sun blocker to be make up.

We may need to wear ward systems to counter on street advertising ..only POOR people will be troubled by Holographic Evangelists popping up from the pavement as they approach the activation sensor that modern Fly Posters will have planted faster than they can be removed and that will say .." Have YOU accepted Cluthu as Your Personal Savior, Lord and Master? "

Criminals WILL wear implants that will contain links to their own personal probation officer who will monitor them at all times and be ever so rude to them if they attempt to circumvent The Law.On Body /in body Stuff of all kinds will be semi intelligent and interactive.

Of late I notice that people of the 'Facebook ' /mobile phone younger generation seem to be losing their capacity to enjoy solitude. There will either be reaction against this or personal privacy as we understand it today will become the property of the One Percent of the Populace who can afford to have it as a personal eccentricity.

Hobbyist/Hackers will have their own self built Zones of Silence that may be generated by implants or worn/wrist watch equivalent - catch me if you can ! - devices.

I've spent half a century reading far too much science fiction/fantasy ..and don't get me started on the Future of Reading!

Public libraries as we have known them wont exist in 30 years time.

Ghods! I didn't think that I could become more downcast than I've been this evening since I learned of the death of Donna Summer.

So much for distraction through Charlies Diary.

I blame Our Host for this!


In Thirty years time Charlie Stross will be ???

He's bound to have a new career by then.

315:

Although I own a tie, I have never actually bought one myself. I wear it on average about once every 5 years. It used to be interviews, wedding and funerals. But now only interviews (maybe).
BTW, I must congratulate Justin at 308 for the correct spelling. Otherwise its just some sort of donkey.

316:

It's not quite that bad. In 2006 one company demonstrated a prototype drive using 300 Gigabyte disks, and densities that could easily support hundreds of terabytes have been demonstrated in the lab. I don't really expect holographics to ever be anything but a niche, myself, but then I don't believe memristors will be a large part of the market either.

My guess is that the dominant technology in high density memory after about 2020 is going to be topological insulators in spin-sensitive circuits because of the potential for low-power and small size (they should work reliably at below 10 nanometers per device, not minimum detail size) and the ability to connect them with room-temperature superconductors made from topological circuits.

317:

Well, if we follow current trends, eventually khakis and button down will be formal wear, and possibly jeans will become formal wear as well.

Actually, the idea of jeans as cultural symbols has been true for some time here in Southern California. This is the land of the carefully aged and decorated fashion jeans worth hundreds of dollars, and worn by the idle rich. I'm not sure how far this particular fashion has spread, but one could have fun in a SF novel with someone paunchy contracting engineer having to pull on his fancy jeans for an interview, rather than putting on the coat and tie. This might make sense in a much warmer milieu, where jeans per se don't make sense as everyday wear, any more than formal 18th Century hunting attire makes sense now except at weddings. Of course, we'd have to ask what casual wear looks like in such a milieu. Perhaps men are wearing sarongs? Or cameleons?

318:

I have a comment that I wrote 5 or so hours ago stuck in moderation. It was about batteries, EVs, and AI taxis if that helps to find it. I didn't have any links.

[[ About 3 and a half? Now published. And it's not just links: some words make the filters very suspicious ]]

319:

For those talking about 3D printers earlier: someone's gotten a RepRap to print circuits using molten metal.

320:

erica @ 306
And finally, in a last-resort situation, the common sock will be usable as a strainer to create purer drinking water.
Euwwwwww ....

@ 308 /309
Well, the literacy rate of the erm "General Public" certainly APPEARS to be going down the tubes.
IF this is so, anyone got any proposed, erm, "modest proposals" to cure the deficiency?

@ 311
What about the Cravat (such as I habitually wear) - remember, the shirt is open-necked - it certainly gets you snoot-value!

@ 314
Errr... the other thing about memristors, according to their proponents, at least was a x10 reduction in power-use.
So they do look good (this week).

@ 315
Formal 18th C hunting wear would mean breeches and knee-socks, NOT just a tail-coat!
Admittedly I DID get married, in such as I have described, with black socks to match the breeches, but then the guard of honour were wearing similar, but with white socks ...
And ... wait for it ...
Baldricks, and carrying LARGE sticks as shown in the kit as seen in This picture ..
Yes, I am in it, centre rear, just to the left of the musician in the hat.

321:

anonemouse writes:

For those talking about 3D printers earlier: someone's gotten a RepRap to print circuits using molten metal.

That's laying down solder on a solid substrate, not really printing a structural metal.

It's neat for electronics, but one can already have small custom circuit boards done on fiberglass with the etched copper traces front and back for a few bucks each if you order 100+, with higher electrical quality and mechanical durability. Any commercial project and most homebrew things can afford that, though prototyping with one of these solder printers might make sense.

Structural metals 3-D printing with DMLS - laser melting/sintering of metal powders, and e-beam sintering - is available now. That allows true 3-d parts production, with unsintered power supporting structural elements that overhang, until they're unified with a "higher up" layer. One could do something similar with powder and a wire type arc welder (MIG, presumably with a gas box rather than blown through the welding nozzle, to avoid blowing the powder around), with less precision than laser sintering and presumably a lot cheaper. But I don't know how much cheaper, and what the resultant structural strength would be.

A homebrew DMLS system, now...

322:

I think that socks could indeed become versatile objects like that.

But I think that there is also the probability that they might disappear nearly completely in 30 years from now.

Just about all the sock innovations you've described could be integrated in boots and / or pantyhose. And since boots and / or panytyhose are bigger than socks they could have even more innovations integrated in them.

323:

I still own a few ties, but I've only worn one twice in the last 10 years: to my sons' weddings. Since I only have two children, I think my days of wearing a tie are now over.

Ties would be a lot more acceptable to me if they were more interesting to look at. If the fabric could be impregnated with a reasonably fast color display and you could plug an SDHC memory chip into one to change the design, I'd be interested. Interviews might be much more interesting if my tie displayed a constant dive into the Mandelbrot set that entranced the interviewers.

324:

i really think we are headed for Brave New World. Which is better than 1984.
Maybe my name is Luid, but I just can't see wrist watch just going away. But for first in line yuppies and mad fashionists. But then I have two wind up ones I am keeping. I am ready for 20012, BAH-HA-HA.
The EPA swore that the 9-11 dust particles were harmless. I knew how we dressed to take down old buildings. I talked to a Army courp of Engineers, engineer. he said the main building was too new to be too bad. but the other one was so old it had to be full of toxins. Reminds me of that volcano that was acting up. The governor of the island locked up the boats to maintain order. So ever one died. If even I knew it was very bad, was it just blown of by a government in a hurry to get back to normal? (Bush?)

325:

The interesting things about that wedding picture is that it is a personal expression, in a way that most are not. There is a standard wedding attire these days, even flashier than the "best suit" pattern of the past.

Your picture is both a break with that pattern, and more real. We might tend to rank different oddities in different orders: it's easy to put historical reenactment above Star Trek uniforms, but if that is your particular thing, it's part of the public expression of your personal commitment. It's saying this is me, and this is my partner, and we're going to stick together against the world.

326:

Archaeopteryx: you are mistaken about smoking being the cause of John Brunner's death. (I'm not going to discuss it in public.)

Obesity: there's no much money in an effective medical treatment for putting on weight that I'll be astonished if something isn't on the market in 30 years time. It will either be relatively cheap but require the user to take daily maintenance doses for life, or an eye-wateringly-expensive one-off; possibly some kind of targeted siRNA therapy to modulate a set of genes implicated in lipid retention in white adipose cells.

Other than that, thanks for the look back to the 1960s. As William Gibson noted, "the future is already here: it's just unevenly distributed". That slice of the 1960s could have been a particularly advanced slice of the 1930s ...

327:

PS: In 30 years, I will be 77, going on 78. I sincerely hope I don't have a career of any sort by then, but going by the way our current rulers are trying to destroy the social support structures for those of us below the top 0.5% I'm not optimistic ...

328:

#287 - Sorry but AFAICS that is "proof by press release", which is just a variation on "proof by assertion" (say $statement confidently, and hope that no-one challenges it). Until you actually have something running...

#298 - I've known of cases where the "thought" process at $BigCo was:-
1) We need staff to support $Software $Vnew.
2) We always hire experienced staff for support roles therefore we must ask for "N years experience". If $recruitment_firm questioned this, they would have lost the business.
I'm not suggesting that recuiters are always innocent in these situation but simply that they are not always guilty.

#320 - Found you, at least for values of "musician" that consider squeezeboxes to be musical insruments! ;-)

#327 - Similarly, and distrusting Wee Eck less than I distrust the ConDems is one reason why I'm considering full partition to be possibly more desirable than DevoMax.

329:

I think the wrist watch has a few years yet before being comprehensively obsolete. Divers, pilots and military personel all use them. Working in technical production for theatre you soon find out what happens if you leave your phone too close to a sound desk or speaker. Try it at home. put your phone on a speaker and call it. that noise will get you fired from your cush gig at the local opera house. Limited fields I know but still out there wearing their time on their wrists for practical purposes not just aesthetics or status.

330:

My favourite example of this was from the early years of the world wide web; circa 1995, some numb-skulled recruiter put out a job ad, looking for someone with CGI scripting experience and web server admin and HTML -- "minimum five years experience required".

The wittiest response I recall was along the lines of "I'm sorry, but Tim Berners-Lee is already taken."

331:

I knew that one. However, it lacks the most important aspects of carishness:

It doesn't protect you against the weather. It could not seat a person comfortably and lacks any way of transporting anything more than a suitcase. It was limited to 24km/h to not require a driver's license.

The 250W engine and 432Wh battery just aren't up to the task. (E-bikes use that kind of engine today, supported by a 100W meat engine that can deliver significantly more than that for short periods of time.)

A 500W engine and 1000Wh battery would increase the weight by about 20kg - less than 20% of the total, significantly improving performance. The mass of such a vehicle is dominated by the driver, not the vehicle or the battery.

In short, it wasn't useful at all. Given that it was a useless toy, 17.000 sold isn't even all that bad.

332:

Hey, Charlie, I recently found a bunch of old White Dwarf magazines. In issue 14 from September 1979, Fiend Factory section, there is a creature named a Gazer, by Charles Stross. Would this be you?

333:

Yes, that was me.

334:

"I think what's actually going to go away is the social convention that some people are more important than others just because they happen to be in the same room as you."

That'll be tricky, since it works against animal instincts, and ignoring somebody has been an age-old insult.

335:

"Is that always the fault of the recruiter though? Back in the 1990s I saw several firms carrying multiple adverts, sometimes as $recruiter acting for $BigCompany, asking for several years experience of $softwareVnew when $softwareVnew had only been released the previous month, so only $softco and their beta testers had any experience whatever of $softwareVnew."

Either the recruiter was absolutely clueless, or happily took the client's money for unobtainable candidates.

I've lost patience with the prevailing idea on the part of recruiters and HR that they don't need to know anything about what they're recruiting for.

336:

"PS: In 30 years, I will be 77, going on 78. I sincerely hope I don't have a career of any sort by then, but going by the way our current rulers are trying to destroy the social support structures for those of us below the top 0.5% I'm not optimistic ..."

Don't worry; the plans of the 1% definitely don't involve too many of us having actual *careers*, just an intermittent string of unpleasant, boring dangerous low-paid *jobs*.

The term in the USA is 'Wal-Mart greeter'.

337:

Indeed, the C5. A car ahead of its time, I think.

Way ahead. Now, there are parts of it i'd fix if I was developing a C5++ today, but the read killer was, well, It would be lethal to take out on todays roads. Just where would you drive one?

Now, 10-20 years time, with driverless cars and wireless collision-avoidance systems ... now such dinky variants look interesting. I'm half-expecting a new Cambrian-explosion of vehicle types (more recumbent bikes, different-design cars) as we move away from a design spec based around surviving a human-induced accident at 100kph.

One new trend in transport is 'multi-use' roads: with bike lanes, bus lanes, etc. we are moving from 1-size fits all roads to multi-lane roads with lanes for different types. Flexibility moving recumbents, etc. out of the "dangerous" stream looks interesting.

338:

" Interviews might be much more interesting if my tie displayed a constant dive into the Mandelbrot set that entranced the interviewers."

We know a book about that, don't we boys and girls :-)

339:

By interesting coincidence, I'm just about to go out and get a replacement battery for my old Casio DBC-150, which was a high tech gadget watch when I got it in the mid-1990s; it still does many things better than my phone. (My only real complaint is the unfortunate positioning of the illumination button.) Some features could be improved, but for an electronic thing almost 20 years old I can't complain about it.

340:

I am a bit of an oddball when it comes to garages. Most single family homes in Winnipeg, where I live, have at least a one car garage and most people I know who have garages, store their vehicle in it. Although we have two vehicles, we don't have a garage or car port, though we do have a small shed to store patio furniture, bicycles and the lawn mower. Our house was built in the early sixties, before it became common for new homes to be built with attached garages.

341:

Great post as always, Charlie, and so well replied to as well. I don't consider wrist watches obsolete, I guess because I don't belong to the cell phone generation. I have a cell phone, which I use to make call and check email, but don't walk around with my face buried in it like a zombie. I had thought of a story idea where a killer stalks a bunch of kids in the mall and executes all of them with a silenced pistol, a nobody, including the next potential victims, notice. Anyway, I find wrist watches much more convenient for checking the time on my wrist than pulling out the cell phone from the belt holster. And when I was in a nursing program it was a necessity for health care providers, meaning everyone from physicians to housekeeping. Not only for keeping track of lunches and meetings, but also for life saving functions such as medication administration and taking vitals. They are also indispensable in the military and other such professions. And as someone mentioned earlier, some businesses don't like to see their employees checking cell phones, thinking that they are checking messages when they should be working. Now I can see implants that allow one to see the time in their visual field, or eyeglass HUDs that take the place of wrist watches, but cannot see phones taking the place of watches entirely. And as you said, some may want them just to be fashionable, though mine are always cheap black plastic. They last longer and if something happens to one I just buy another.
Good point on household furniture as well. My waterbed cost more than anything in my house except for the computer and some firearms. But I remember sleeping on cheap mattresses and my back a disaster the next day. But we as a society do tend to spend more on the things that entertain than on that which we need.
Interesting story about timekeeping, and I have one of those as well, as seen on the History Channel. In America in the Nineteenth century there was no standardized timekeeping. Every town and city kept their own time, mostly based on the sun. Then the railroads came along to link the continent on mostly one track runs. Trains were running into each other due to the non-standardization of timekeeping, so the country adopted the time zone concept (don't think we invented it) so the schedules could be standardized and reduce the number of train wrecks.

342:

Most single family homes in Winnipeg, where I live, have at least a one car garage and most people I know who have garages, store their vehicle in it.

The percentage of garage space dedicated to storing vehicles is somewhat related to the length and severity of winters. And the heat of summers to some degree. Lived and spent time in areas from Texas up to CT/PA. Further north garages are for cars.

343:

Why WW1 could not be stopped:
"In 1969 AJP Taylor published his book War by Timetable. In it, he argued that railway timetables played a key part in starting the First World War.

Mobilising millions of men was a hugely complicated job. Every country used the railways, and spent years working out how to get all those soldiers and all their supplies to where they needed to be - eg the Schlieffen Plan took nine years to devise (1897-1906).
So every country had only one Plan - the Russians had 'Plan A', the French 'Plan 17';
and it was too much to devise another one!

So, when the crisis came - although it didn't fit the situation that these Plans envisaged - every country had to go ahead and implement their Plans because they had no other plans of what to do, and it was too late to make a new one. The Tsar HAD to order a general mobilisation, even though he only wanted to mobilise against Austria. And when, on
1 August, Kaiser Wilhelm tried to pause the German mobilisation, his generals told that he couldn't; 11,000 trains were on the move, and war could not now be stopped."

344:

Alastair writes:


Now, 10-20 years time, with driverless cars and wireless collision-avoidance systems ... now such dinky variants look interesting. I'm half-expecting a new Cambrian-explosion of vehicle types (more recumbent bikes, different-design cars) as we move away from a design spec based around surviving a human-induced accident at 100kph.

You're forgetting road conditions, mechanical failure, animals crossing road, debris on raid, and electronics failure. At least.

Things that cannot survive a midspeed head-on with a SUV or truck, or running off the road into a tree or bridge abutment, will likely never make it.

It's possible to make small cars that tough, but it gets exponentially harder as weight drops. You end up with safety cages like race cars and six point harnesses and HANS / helmet and...

345:

If you live in, for instance, New Hampshire, buying a car that won't survive a collision with a moose is probably not a good idea. Not to say people don't buy such cars in those places, just that it's a well-understood risk.

346:

I have seen - before first responders - car on horse and car on cow, in California ( west marin).

Moose are bigger and taller, but we have horses and cattle nationwide.

347:


You're forgetting road conditions, mechanical failure, animals crossing road, debris on raid, and electronics failure. At least.

Things that cannot survive a midspeed head-on with a SUV or truck, or running off the road into a tree or bridge abutment, will likely never make it.

No i'm not, but I didn't make it clear how important the separate lanes matter.
The C5 design was a 10-15 mph recumbent. I could never take it on an ordinary road: i'd not be seen by a truck driver (it was too small) and not survive a crash.

The second part of my post was important: if I was sharing a road / separated lane with bikes rather than cars, then its a different matter. I'd not be sharing my C5 with a car, or vehicle at 60mph. The C5 was competition for bikes for urban use, not cross-continental driving.
Low speed makes most of the accidents you point to far more survivable.

348:

Charlie @ 326
Most of the "obesity" you hear of is no such thing - remember the BMI index-figures are based on a seriously skewed original sample.
It's like the fake "Salt" & "Cholesterol" health-scares, based on the flimsiest of so-called "evidence".
Yes, there are grossly fat peope out there, but the public panic is completely out of proportion.

Dirk @ 343
AJPT was wrong
Both Barbara Tuchman and Christian Wolmar ("Engines of War") have thorougly exploded this convenient myth.

349:

The thing about mooses being taller: they're effectively large cylinders of meat and bone held at windscreen height by those long spindly legs. This makes them unusually able to penetrate the passenger cell.

On the whole, it's probably best to not run into large animals in the first place.

350:

I'm not sure the railway timetable hypothesis was unique to AJP Taylor -- Barbara Tuchmann raised the significance of railyway timetabling in "The Guns of August", and I suspect it's been widely recognized for a long time. The German victory at Tannenburg was pretty much down to them having militarized their railway control systems from well before the war (signalmen and their controllers were army officers), so that when it became necessary to redeploy a corps to reinforce a different front facing the Russian advance, they were able to do so in a matter of days -- meanwhile the Russians had overrun their supply lines, were marching through a swamp, and the soldiers at the front were half-starved and had no idea where they were and when they were meant to get there.

(The example of why the German western mobilization couldn't be stopped -- railway timetables -- was overstated: once started Ludendorf wanted an excuse to shore up the Kaiser's wobbly resolve, and the timetables provided a plausible rationale. But as Tannenbaum showed, the timetables could be hacked in a hurry if necesary.)

I'm not sure any single mode of transport so dominates modern military logistics, unless it's the USA's dependency on huge sealift resources for moving mechanized brigades around -- I heard one estimate that a US mechanized brigade weighs around half a million tons, once you include the supplies it'll burn during a brief deployment, and burns through up to 25,000 tons of fuel and ammunition in a day, hence the requirement for lots of very big cargo ships to get one into position. (Hell, by those figures, a modern mechanized brigade is about as energy-intensive as an entire WW1 army group ...)

351:

Given the magnitude of those military operations, it is rather laughable that the US is objectively and subjectively perfectly incapable to carry out anything similar in the civilian sphere.

I just don't know exactly what the actual reason is.

352:

Oh, I'm pretty sure I know what the actual reason is. But it's too long to fit in a 140 character tweet ...

353:

Well, I have sufficient patience to read the 141st character as well.

As for my two cents:

It seems to that the military is basically outside of political responsibility and generally centrally planned. Which gives the whole system a lot of ways to get stuff done on the one hand - and very little chance stop doing things that turn out to be stupid.

On the other hand, the civilian sphere is dominated by fractured alliances that make it very easy to stop things from happening. Without a majority, nothing can be done and majorities are easy to lose. Since every large project automatically has negative consequences to somebody out there and other factions will seize this fact as an opportunity to gain power from the other, the project will be stopped dead in its tracks.

It's not even a failure of democracy itself, it's the question how people use or abuse its institutions. They may very well stay within the rules, but then again, a popular way to protest without going on strike is to do everything by the rules. Because everybody knows that just about any set of rules is rubbish if you follow it to the letter.

After some time, democracies seem to reach the point when factions start to follow the rules of the constitution instead of their intentions.

The military, on the other hand, seems to at least occasionally follow some kind of purpose - while ignoring the rules and no way to stop them if those happen to be such fundamentals like not casually accepting civilian casualties in drone strikes. (Isn't it strange how killing people has become more acceptable in the public and even stopped being an act of war, when it is done by remote controlled robots instead of human piloted airplanes?)

354:
I like watches. Look, I know my stupidly expensive clockwork thingy with it's Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres certificate is less accurate than something made by casio out of plastic. But it *isn't* a cheap lump of plastic, it's an engineering marvel
And the Casio isn't an engineering marvel?
355:

>>>And the Casio isn't an engineering marvel?

Not if you judge the "marvel level" of something by the amount of effort that went into creating it. Which is a bloody stupid thing to do, but still...

356:

As for everyday objects which people use all the time and ignore, my nomination is the humble graphite pencil.

357:

I'm trying to remember when I last used one: not this year, I think. Maybe not last year, either.

(My wife uses 'em regularly for puzzles.)

358:

2d (on paper) printing is a bit of a luxury good in quite a bit of my life already. I recognize its use in hand to hand advertising, but in a bunch of instances it has already been replaced. In fact, in hand to hand advertising of shows, I have seen quite a few instances where just online advertising has taken over. House shows and things of that nature.

The dead tree people are going to be around for a while, but for a bunch of authors, having printed versions of their work is a luxury, and viewed as something to obtain, rather than a requirement of distribution of work.

I don't know that it is "radically at odds" to its original use though.

359:

Televisions, paper (especially hardcover) books, dvds, and CDs are largely status symbol commodities for people of my generation (I'm 24) in my general area (suburban southern New England). With the exception of books, computers have not only been a complete replacement for the others but a far more convenient replacement for them for a whole decade, and ebook readers are just starting to become (from my perspective as someone whose bedroom is difficult to clean on account of large stacks of books that won't fit on any of the five floor-to-ceiling shelves) usable to the extent of being a feasible replacement for many paper books. As early as 2005, I was seeing people using books as a status symbol knowingly (a friend was looking into getting hardcover copies of Dante's Inferno, but she didn't get any because she wanted them leather-bound), and at that time CDs and DVDs were already beginning to add paper widgets and figurines and other physical junk. The standard procedure at the time (still true now) is you buy a CD or a DVD, rip the contents to a computer immediately, and keep the physical media in a closet somewhere in case of a catastrophic disk failure. I suspect it'll be several years before these go the way of vinyl records (and watches for my generation) and cease to be considered a utility at all.

As for what we will probably value too little... Radio receivers probably already occupy the top spot. Many people don't bother with wired internet and use wifi instead, but they likewise don't bother with landline telephones and use mobile phones, and if they don't bother with watches and instead use one of the various clocks around that sync with atomic clocks, they are relying heavily upon radio signals without thinking about them moreso than they rely upon bandwidth per-se. Wifi is the most conspicuous example: public wifi is damned near unusable in thunderstorms.

360:

Back when I was playing soldiers in the 70s we were told that NATO had enough supplies to fight a European war for 2 weeks before the ammo ran out. Also that NATO would go to a limited nuclear response after day three. Upon a subsequent general release to divisional commanders tactical nukes were estimated to be used at a rate of some 200 per day subsequently.

361:

An interesting danish book "Trusselbilledet" by one of the generals (Hillingsøe) who would have implemented that NATO strategy, cites documents from the eastern block which claim that the plan for invading Denmark was to basically level it with tactical nukes from east to west.

Quite an interesting book, unfortunately only in Danish and out of print already.

This is as chilling as tactical nukes get:

http://www.3ad.com/history/cold.war/nuclear.pages/nuke.vets.pages/edp.briefing.htm

362:

I call nonsense, Greg. The proof is quite easy. Pick a photo of a graduating grade school class in 1982. Anywhere in America, I don't care, and pick a lot of them to make sure you've got a good sample.

Then look at a picture of sixth-graders at the same school in mid-2012.

You are, I hate to say it, wrong. Obesity has exploded in the United States and Mexico, two countries I can easily judge. (I write this in Mexico City, where I just spent yesterday in the middle-of-nowhere working-class exurban town of Melchor Ocampo. Most kids are not obese, but I am stunned at how many are, and how rare it was to even see a fat kid in Mexico in the 1980s or early 1990s.) I strongly doubt the figures from elsewhere are cooked.

I am curious, however, as to why anyone would want to downplay the existence of the problem, as opposed to arguing about the causes. Unlike the global warming deniers, the motivation escapes me.

363:

It's partly to do with BMI pissing off people like me.
For most of my adult life I have been "obese", despite having "lower than average body fat". Sometimes, very little body fat at all.

364:

" As early as 2005, I was seeing people using books as a status symbol knowingly (a friend was looking into getting hardcover copies of Dante's Inferno, but she didn't get any because she wanted them leather-bound), ... "

Ho, Hum ..has your Lady Friend come across this ? ...


" Divine Comedy, The (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics) [Hardcover]
Dante (Author), Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Author)
5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews) Like (23)
RRP: £25.00
Price: £19.70 & this item Delivered FREE in the UK with Super Saver Delivery. See details and conditions
You Save: £5.30 (21%) " ...

The Divine Comedy is part of Barnes & Noble s series of quality leather-bound volumes. Each title in the series presents a classic work in an attractively designed edition bound in genuine bonded leather. These books make elegant additions to any home library. "


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Divine-Comedy-Barnes-Leatherbound-Classics/dp/143510384X


Over here in the UK I've just bought a Kindle Touch at modest cost -thought since it was bought over here in " Treasure Island " it cost over twice what it would in the US of A - and despite my having bought a leather cover on E Bay at a fiver, and regardless of having loaded Hundreds of E Books on the thing, ...well, despite the charms of having a cheap plasticy Thing of the Modern Electronic "Stuff " variety, upon which I'm presently reading a copy of " Twenty Palaces " by Harry Connolly which series I acquired in paperback after I'd read the first after a recommendation by Our Host ... . They are Here ....


http://www.harryjconnolly.com/blog/?p=5696


The thing is that, despite the Natty Leather cover ..I did mention the ever so expensive £5 cover? ..that I acquired for my kindle, and despite my being half way through a really good story .. well, frankly I'm just not all that fond of the Kindle Touch.

Oh, I can see why people like them, and I'll admit that I bought the thing so as to have something to play with until the Kindle Fire 2 " come out over here in the ...Rumored ..lead up to Ule Tide of 2012 .. in which the 2nd Generation Kindle Fire may appear as a 10" High Definition screen competitor to the I Pad 3 .. and despite the fact that I am downloading a HUGE Magazine Collection from the Torrent Stamp Collector/Trainspotter persons that should be interesting if it works since it looks as if it might be some sort of Library Archive,never-the -less if I could get get Harry Connollys latest Twenty Palaces novel- or any of our Hosts novels - Leather bound at at three times that price of that edition of Divine Comedy then my plastic credit card would melt with the heat of friction as it left my - leather - wallet.


Theres no accounting for tastes eh ?

365:

PS and more appropriately given that the Latest Laundry novel is due out real soon now there is ..


http://www.amazon.co.uk/H-P-Lovecraft-Complete-Leatherbound-Classics/dp/1435122968/ref=lh_ni_t

My copy of "The Apocalypse Codex (A Laundry Files Novel) [Hardcover]" is on order in Hardback from amazon.com of the US of A ..but I'd rather have it in Genuine Ancient Old One Hide if that were available? Pretty Please? Oh come on Charlie you've just got to have some sort of Influence on your Publishers!

366:

It's partly to do with BMI pissing off people like me.

Yes the BMI is a bit flawed. I have very broad shoulders for my height so the BMI for me always has me over weight.

But kids are obese. I can't think of one kid (boy?) in my neighborhood while growing up that would be considered in any way overweight. The 60s. But we tended to play outside way more often than kids today. If they weather wasn't terrible we and school not in session we were mostly thrown out the door by our parents. And when we got tired we played board games or cards in our garage with various breaks for going back to riding bikes 50 laps around the block or flies and grounders or exploring the woods.

Today's parenting by fear, cable TV, and the Internet conspire to keep kids indoors. At least in the USA.

367:

It seems to that the military is basically outside of political responsibility and generally centrally planned. Which gives the whole system a lot of ways to get stuff done on the one hand - and very little chance stop doing things that turn out to be stupid.

Or to put it another way, they don't have to turn a profit. Just not spend every penny in the bank of gold coins given to them.

And loosing an engagement is not something that goes down well as a study for how we do better next time. Loosing a battle is much worse for the miliary than American Airlines loosing market share to Delta in Chicago. Which means you spend almost everything you've go to win. Of course when you are in it to win the unwinnable, then you have a serious political issue or few.

368:

That Complete Lovecraft isn't nearly really complete - and though it has more pages isn't nearly as nice as this collection :

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Necronomicon-Weird-Lovecraft-Fiction-GOLLANCZ/dp/0575081562/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b


I do still wear a watch every day at work. It may depend what you do, but running about fitting things between scheduled meetings and telecons, glancing down at an almost subliminal identified time on my wrist tells me repeatedly how many minutes until I need to be/ dial somewhere else and if I have time to do X or Y before then.

369:

I was a little boy in the decade after yours, stretching into the 1980s. In my elementary school --- and it was a large elementary school, maybe 120 kids in each grade --- there was one "fat kid." Who was also my good friend, and by today's standards merely overweight.

It's disturbing, to be honest.

That said, I don't know if the obesity epidemic has anything to do with stuff. Inasmuch as it does (high fructose corn syrup? Videogames?) then we're still on point.

P.S. My friend was named Osama, which had absolutely no connotation at all in 1976-82. I don't think anyone even placed its origin; he was just Sammy.

370:

My bet? Eyeglasses.

I hope eye surgery becomes cheap, convenient, and safe enough over the next 30 years to render eyeglasses obsolete- except maybe they'll become the "VR goggles" we've all been waiting for.

Bicycles, kitchens, notebooks, monthly planners, pens, paper, printed books, dumbbells, cars (ie horseless carriages) and the toothbrush will be with us for generations to come.

Perhaps Cities will become obsolete/re-purposed, or maybe that's already happened(?)

371:

How could I forget..... the Pianoforte? (my instrument!)It's already gone digital; digital pianos are cheaper, smaller, lighter, MIDI-capable and don't need tuning. And it's really hard to mic an acoustic piano in a recording studio, so digital is easier to record. (plus you can practice a digital piano with headphones on)

An acoustic piano became a status symbol decades ago, after it was replaced by the Grammophone as the home music system. My Piano has been "re-purposed" as a piece of furniture (except when I practice on it) My own piano certainly reflects my "status" but I won't get into that...

There's still a huge difference between playing digital and acoustic pianos- maybe I'm part of the obsolescence but hammers, strings, sounding board, and an absurdly complex wooden "action" give me a much more "real" experience than weighted keys triggering multisamples, sounding thru speakers. I don't see Steinway or Yamaha pianos ever going the way of Kodak film.

372:

Barry - that's exactly my point. It's not fair to just blame the recruiters; sometimes it's the employer's HR or management at a level sufficiently detatched from $job to not understand the state of the art in its tools instead.

373:

#363 and 366 - I was at primary school late 1960s to mid 70s. There were 2 distinctly "fat looking" kids in my class. I actually out-weighed one of them but I was significantly taller than him and muscley with it (I once single-handedly won a tug of war against 6 of my class-mates).
The issue(s?) with BMI are the flawed base population of "Great USIan Dustbowl" era subjects, and as Dirk notes, its complete failure to consider musculo-skeletal deviations from the norm.
The "obesity epidemic" is real yes, but BMI is the worst form of pseudo-science.

374:

The trouble is that the most common eye problem is a loss of focusing range with age, which is why you get things such as bifocal eyeglasses and their enhancements.

You should be able to develop surgical methods to correct infinity focus and astigmatism but that wouldn't take away the need for reading glasses. Also, these lens problems aren't a fixed defect: the corrections needed vary over time.

So the corrections needed can be minimised, but spectacles are going to be with us for a long time. Some people can use contact lenses, some cannot.

375:

Strictly, they're both "engineering marvels", but the marvel of the digital watch is in the ability to reliably make a physical and chemical pattern on a block of metal which we cannot directly see. The mechanical watch is on a scale which we can see, and that impresses us more, together with the way in which the manufacture of the parts, and the assembly of them, is on that tangible scale.

The skill involved is on a human scale, it isn't something which we imagine as dependent on our machines.

376:

I would love to toss a wall full of sheet music in exchange for a tablet, but I think many musicians are waiting for one that provides

1. much larger screen than current iterations i.e. you can fit an A4 or more at full resolution - especially important if you're on a piano or in an ensemble that requires you follow other musicians closely
2. ability to annotate the music with fingerings and other information

377:

I think I said A3 and allow annotations someplace in-thread.

378:

"Given the magnitude of those military operations, it is rather laughable that the US is objectively and subjectively perfectly incapable to carry out anything similar in the civilian sphere.

I just don't know exactly what the actual reason is."

Because significant elements in our political system don't want them done. Pure and simple.

And even in the Iraq War, the performance was miserable, for a planned war against a castrated opponent who had been a full tech level below the USA back in 1990, and had gone down since then.

It'd be like a WWIII vs WWII army battle, assuming that the WWII army was horribly equipped, had poor supplies, and not even enough air support to last one day.

379:

"It's partly to do with BMI pissing off people like me.
For most of my adult life I have been "obese", despite having "lower than average body fat". Sometimes, very little body fat at all."

Nothing new. A squad leader in the early 80's told me about his squad leader in the late 70's (US Army). That guy had won the Mr. Alaska contest for body building. His fatigues were specially made.

Every month, he had to go down to the base doctor, and get a waiver for the weight rule violation.

380:

"Or to put it another way, they don't have to turn a profit. Just not spend every penny in the bank of gold coins given to them."

Actually, they do spend every penny. The difference is that hundreds of billions of $USD in overruns is considered par for the course. Any other department which had that sort of stuff (even proportional to its budget) would be in trouble.

381:

"And loosing an engagement is not something that goes down well as a study for how we do better next time. Loosing a battle is much worse for the miliary than American Airlines loosing market share to Delta in Chicago. Which means you spend almost everything you've go to win. Of course when you are in it to win the unwinnable, then you have a serious political issue or few."

Again, in the Iraq War, we lost multiple engagements.

382:

It's even worse than that. DOD accounting is so bad that they can't tell to within billions of dollars in any given year where the money is. Either they're incredibly incompetent, incredibly corrupt, or deliberately hiding money for black budgets. My vote is for all the above.

383:

@365:
I'd rather have it in Genuine Ancient Old One Hide if that were available?
---
Uh, you *do* realize the slime will eat right through rubber gloves, don't you? And that the vinyl gloves won't reliably protect you for more than ten minutes? Or would this be a gift for someone you don't particularly like?

I believe they use waldos to handle them in the library...

384:

Fair cop, I know. I'd typed and re-typed a longer response but it seemed redundant to have to explain my anger. It has been continuously and quite seriously suggested in this thread that my peers aren't able to read a clockface, tie their shoes or even write their own names because apparently once you invent a digital watch, velcro or quit teaching literacy by rote people just don't bother. And I haven't seen anyone else take exception to these views. (What I wrote wasn't snark, I was just so upset at the derisive tone of that post that I couldn't even.)

Not that I think you share these views, Charlie, because it's evident in your fiction that you don't think humanity is in some decline. But there are a few people here who do, and their comments feel very personal.

385:

Let me put a bit of context on that, from my 50 in July viewpoint:-
1) I've had conversations with people in the their 30s who've asserted that they don't need to learn mental or even long-hand arithmetic "because they have calculators". Back when I was at school (aged maybe 17) I once bought a bunch of stuff priced at "25% off sticker price" (7 or 8 items, all priced as £some.95 or £some.99). I was being served by someone about 11 or 12 who went for a calculator to work out my bill. He was stuggling with the calculator for about 3 mins after I'd calculated the bill, because he didn't know the method he needed.
2) I also post on an international car website, and the number of teenage or 20something posters who think that txtspk is acceptable as a way of posing a technical query is frankly scary.

To me, your complaint is a reflection of my life!

386:

Your comment about annotations (no mention of size) appeared after I wrote my comment (weblag).

I had a Tablet PC 9 years ago that allowed me to do the annotations onto PDF quite easily, but the screen size was slightly smaller than A4. It was fine for using at the piano but I wouldn't want to risk it on a free-standing music support.

387:

Not #376 and 377; somewhere up around 100.

388:

Well, the libraries which can afford this stuff can also afford some shoggoth exactly for this role.

Now handling those is somewhat tricky, but well, AFAIR OGH never mentioned if Enochian is Turing-Complete. ;)

389:

I think that disdain for txtspk is much better grounded than that for arithmetic using calculators. If the calculator user does it right, the result is indistinguishable from a correct result worked on paper or in the head. The same cannot be said of txtspk, which produces stunted results in addition to gadget-reliance.

I am aware that early use or overuse of calculators disadvantages students for later mathematical education and leaves them at the mercy of machines for everyday arithmetic. I am less certain that it has significant negative material consequences. Most people carry phones everywhere now, and phones easily double as calculators. The "how will you do arithmetic when there's only pencil and paper at hand?" argument is somewhat dated, rather like the "how will you make fire when there's only flint and steel at hand?" argument. Students who pursue mathematics out of love don't need forcible restraint from calculators; they will be thinking and calculating about all sorts of things and in all sorts of contexts where calculators are useless or unavailable.

The last big worry among pundits, politicians, and parents about math-stunted children is that they will not be prepared for all the Good Jobs waiting out there in STEM and will thereby erode National Competitiveness. Rhetoric aside, most nations do not suffer a shortage of mathematically and scientifically trained workers. If they really did, the average mathematics postdoc wouldn't earn less than the average prison guard. It would be best if nobody pressured/deceived children or their parents that mathematical prowess is crucial to future earning prospects. Becoming a mathematician is a lucrative career only if your runner-up career choice is historian.

Personally, most of my mathematics education didn't permit use of calculators. I find mental arithmetic very convenient and I'm constantly exploring Fermi problems from the world around me, particularly relating to energy and resources. But I'm also aware that most people have no vocational or personal reason to constantly confront quantitative reasoning and estimation problems.

There seems to be an effort to paper over the gap between the intellectual rewards of mathematical development and the tangible rewards of same with sheer willpower. It's an 'internal emigration' of the mind to a world that is in some ways better and in others is just as arbitrary and implausible as those old Popular Science ads promising a fortune to be made in VCR repair.

390:

I think that disdain for txtspk is much better grounded than that for arithmetic using calculators.

Not necessarily. Txtspk as a code has its place for various reasons, e.g.

a) speed of typing
b) bandwith (remember 'The Abyss'?)
c) message length restrictions
d) play with language

Of course, there is often a trade-off, e.g. in terms of clarity. But then, to go back to the example of technical queries, if you can shorten a three-part sms to a one-part sms, I for one would think that one better as an explanation, imagine some poor DAU frickling through three consecutive SMS...

Of course, with other circumstances another code is better, but than, most people can switch between codes, though some tend to pep up their talks with some slang etc., and of course also txtspk. See 'play with language' above. Of course, you have to use the correct code, no, LOL doesn't mean 'lots of love' and is not an appropiate way of commenting the death of a loved one.

As for calculators, there is some Feynman story abouts its wanky older brother, the abacus:

http://www.ee.ryerson.ca/~elf/abacus/feynman.html

391:

THere's also the point that there's a batch of people out there who learned to type on phone number pads, carried the language necessary over to the early social networks (MySpace, Bebo) once computers were available to them, and now think pretty much "normal people communicate this way."

392:

Again, in the Iraq War, we lost multiple engagements.

If you're discussing the first one, yes, as many of the Colonels and lower Generals had become business managers. And acted like them. My wife and mother-in-law knew some of them personally from time around them in the early 80s and were amazed they did as well as they did.

Stopping a tank advance in flat desert due to darkness when you were the only force on the planet with GPS units was just one of their follies where they acted like business managers instead of war fighters.

393:

I am aware that early use or overuse of calculators disadvantages students for later mathematical education and leaves them at the mercy of machines for everyday arithmetic. I am less certain that it has significant negative material consequences.

The biggest issue is that people who grow up on calculators in general cannot estimate reliably. And that's a detriment in many areas of life. From the building trades to cooking. Hard to be a supervisor if you can't tell when the amount of nails or butter you've ordered makes no sense for the work to be done.

Slide rules and doing rough math in your head was all about getting a numerical answer then figuring out where the decimal belonged. Calculators tend to allow typos to create really bizarre answers than a lack of real life experience doesn't make obviously wrong.

394:

It has been continuously and quite seriously suggested in this thread that my peers aren't able to read a clockface, tie their shoes or even write their own names because apparently once you invent a digital watch, velcro or quit teaching literacy by rote people just don't bother. And I haven't seen anyone else take exception to these views.

Because it's a natural trend. I can drive a three on the column stick shift without power brakes or steering. Most people today under the age of 30 or so would likely drive such a car into a tree. Even if they could drive a stick.

Kids ARE growing up never having tied their shoes. Or worked out problems where you had to estimate the answer and figure out the exponent. Or tell time on an analog watch.

But then again, my dad could slaughter cattle and hogs, milk cows, plow a field with a mule team, etc... skills that very few of my generation (after WWII) or later every attempted, much less mastered.

And I'm fairly sure generations prior to him had skills he got to skip. Like walk across the continent while living off the land.

Consider yourself a renaissance man for your generation and move on.

395:

Back to stuff. What about fads.

Electric can openers started to get popular back in the 70s. They seemed to go out of style about 10 to 20 years ago. Most of us figured out they could handle turning a small hand crank a few times vs. an automated electrical device that took up way too much counter space for the utility provided.

396:

#389, 390 and 394 - Refer to my #395 Anecdote (1); the whole point is that the kid apparently did not know how to calculate a discounted price, so the issue was methods rather than tools.
Similarly, will they know how to perform exponentiation in the absence of an X^n button?
As David L says, can they perform a "reasonableness check" to guard against finger trouble or a faulty ALU?
...

txtspk is not necessary unless you have bandwidth retrictions, and risks misunderstandings if you're trying to describe a technical problem. By way of illustration, this blog comment is running to somewhere around 500 characters.

397:

@395:
Back to stuff. What about fads.
Electric can openers started to get popular back in the 70s. They seemed to go out of style about 10 to 20 years ago.
---
My mother ironed everything. T-shirts, blue jeans, maybe even socks for all I know.

I have never owned or used an ironing board or iron. Part of it is modern fabrics, part of it is changes in fashion, and part of it is I simply don't care.

I don't know what either device could be repurposed for. They're just obsolete, like the box of eight-track tapes I threw out years ago, or the boxes of 5-1/4 inch floppy discs years before that, or the boxes of old computers and parts before that...

One nice thing about the miniaturization of consumer goods is that DVDs and micro-SD cards take up much less space in the "needs to go but can't bear to throw it out" zone than reel-to-reel tapes and LPs did...

398:

Going back to the root message, and Charlie's comment about good beds and chairs.

How can you recognize one if you see it in the store?

It's not like they'll let you take one home for a few weeks to try it out. If you're like most people, you'll bounce on one the store has set up, make your best guess, and unless you have a very understanding shop or enough money to iterate the process, you're stuck with it.

A good example of this is cars, or even better, motorcycles. Something that feels just fine sitting in the showroom can turn into something Torquemada's Inquisitors would have been envious of after an hour or so. The seats in a friend's Corvette are *great* when you plunk your butt into them; twenty minutes later you realize all the side thigh and side bolsters lock that lock you into position against G-forces also keep you from unkinking your back or hip joints, and they turn into instruments of torture. But reviewers rave about the seats, because they feel great... for no longer than the reviewer sits in them, anyway.

Beds are the same way. I've spent the night on beds that I thought were really nice, until I woke up in agony.

Beds have another problem - females are typically wider across the hips *and* carry their center of mass lower than males; an optimal bed might be noticeably different depending on gender.

399:

#397 and 398

Similarly I've never owned a iron, but my Mum irons almost everything (not jeans, not that that's normally an issue since we don't normally buy them).

Cars, unlike beds, can often be hired, at least if you're looking to try a current model.

If a chair salesman won't let me try one for a couple of hours, there's always other furniture shops.

400:

"Consider yourself a renaissance man for your generation and move on."

Because I can tie my shoes?

Look, I was in the generation that grew up with velcro: at six, I needed a teacher or my mother to tie my shoes and I owned (and loved) velcro. But there isn't a particularly difficult learning curve for tying shoelaces (unlike, say, slaughtering a cow) and I was able to pick up the skill at about that time.

The assertion that because small children today can't tie shoelaces there will be adults who don't understand shoelaces in the near future is patently absurd because we've already had that generation grow up. I mean, go sit at a cafe on a busy corner and count the adolescents/young adults who are wearing velcro shoes.

The following is the online shop for shoes at Urban Outfitters, a shop that caters to the youth market (and if you were born after 1980, you grew up with velcro). Look at how many of them are lace-ups; none are velcro.

http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/category.jsp?id=MENS_SHOES

I'm cheating only in that the obvious exception is women, who often wear slips and heels, but women's sneakers are still lace-ups almost exclusively. They're not lacking the skill, they just have to contend with different footwear expectations.

The statement that the youth can't lace their shoes is not only wrong, but it's derisive because the skill has such a low learning curve and laced-shoes are so ubiquitous that what is being implied is that today's youth are hilariously incompetent.

The other points are similarly weak and malicious. A complaint was made that today's youth spend too much time looking at their phones and crash into things. Looking at their phones as they read and write to each other. And yet they're also accused of being illiterate.

That's not what illiteracy looks like.

401:

"Electric can openers started to get popular back in the 70s. They seemed to go out of style about 10 to 20 years ago. Most of us figured out they could handle turning a small hand crank a few times vs. an automated electrical device that took up way too much counter space for the utility provided."

There's one good use for them - if you feed your cats canned food, using an electric can opener, then you can always get them back indoors in the evening. Just open your front and back doors, and run the can opener. Seconds later, they'll be around your ankles.

402:

if you were born after 1980, you grew up with velcro
Thus showing that you have a hazy knowledge of the history of the products you're discussing with such confidence:-
1) Gus Grissom died of a Velcro fire on 27th Jan 1967.
2) 2 or 3 years later Velcro was cheap enough that my school painting smock had a Velcro closure. Ok, you couldn't have known that I owned a Velcro-closed garment that early, but you could have known that it was cheap enough to be accessible to the middle classes by then.

As for claiming that "not understanding methods in arithmetic" is "weak and mendacious"...

403:

The assertion that because small children today can't tie shoelaces there will be adults who don't understand shoelaces in the near future is patently absurd because we've already had that generation grow up.

Things like this many times take a few generations to play out. My dad taught me skills that to him were obvious need to know things. But to most of my generation they were not. Like repairing cars. But while many in my generation know somewhat about cars, most 20 somethings I deal with no almost nothing outside of what they learned watching Top Gear. The number of under 30s who have every owned or used a socket and/or wrench set is way smaller than the 30 to 50 group.

While you're taking all of this as an insult, most of us here are treating as an observation.

404:

@400:
caters to the youth market (and if you were born after 1980, you grew up with velcro). Look at how many of them are lace-ups; none are velcro.
---
On the flip side, my Dad, who is 83, only wears Velcro-closure sneakers now. From the time I was born until just a few years ago he had never owned any shoes that were not made of black leather, laced up, and were polished regularly.

I, on the other hand, have trouble finding shoes that fit at all. I don't have the option of insisting all my shoes be black leather; often, the only things that will fit are striped in three argumentive colors and covered with advertising words and logos. Since I don't work at the circus, there's always spray paint... I'm long past the age where I'll willingly walk around as some company's mobile billboard.

405:
The assertion that because small children today can't tie shoelaces there will be adults who don't understand shoelaces in the near future is patently absurd because we've already had that generation grow up. I mean, go sit at a cafe on a busy corner and count the adolescents/young adults who are wearing velcro shoes.

Can you put on a bow tie by yourself? How about properly knotting a regular one? I'm of the generation that pretty much had to where the damn things, for church if nothing else. It seems that relatively few (younger) people retain or ever learn these skills. Here's the thing: both are pretty easy to pick up, and in particular, bow ties are done up just like you do shoe laces.

Iow, I think your mistaking what people are saying, which is not that people who don't know how to do these things are lazy cretins who can't even tie their own shoes, but that changing times have resulted in a number of once-common small skills falling into disuse.

Here's another one: "Counting up" to make change. Back in the day, if I rang up $14.62 for a customer and they handed me a $20, I'd start with pennies and call it $14.65, then I'd add a dime, call it $14.75, then a quarter, call it $15, and finally add $5 (compsci guys already know this trick as 10's complement subtraction, which is generally how it's done inside a computer). No machine intervention to make proper change necessary. These days? The kids act confused if my total is $14.62 and I hand them $20.12. Until they ring it up that is. The point being that while we can chuckle at their innumeracy, it turns out that they don't really need that particular little accounting skill. It most specifically does not mean that they are incompetent.

406:
The number of under 30s who have every owned or used a socket and/or wrench set is way smaller than the 30 to 50 group.

While you're taking all of this as an insult, most of us here are treating as an observation.

Observations, furthermore, which I personally take as commentary on how conditions have improved over what they were 30 and 50 years ago.

Case in point, back in the 60's most every older male in the neighborhood could gap their own plugs, use a timing light, change out the oil etc. on their flivvers. This doesn't mean they should be mistaken for omni-competent characters of Heinleinian proportions. It simply means that back in the day automobiles were much inferior to what we have now and it made good economic sense to be able to do basic maintenance on the family conveyance.

Nowadays? Well, sure, most people can't do that stuff anymore. But that's only because cars have been so much improved that it no longer makes economic sense to acquire that particular skill set.

407:

Nowadays? Well, sure, most people can't do that stuff anymore. But that's only because cars have been so much improved that it no longer makes economic sense to acquire that particular skill set.

I showed my son how to do the basics and he even dug in and changed the timing belt on his 2004 Civic. (If you don't know this is definitely non trivial but no where near an engine overhaul.) But this makes him a likely 1% member of his age group. And if this was all done 10 years later I'd likely not have bothered. The 2009 Elantra we bought will likely never have anyone but a mechanic at a repair shop into the engine. And may never need to have anyone pull the heads before it is retired at 400K plus miles. Unlike my 62 Skylark with GM's experimental failure at an aluminum engine. I got to pull those heads 5 times back in 1970.

The flip side of things being more reliable is planned obsolescence. I've heard that most consumer grade 2-cycle engine things like weed whackers and such are designed for 50 starts without breaking. That gives most folks 2 to 4 years. But no where near the 10 to 20 year life of such things when I was young.

Flivver? Are you saying you were alive in the 20s? ;)

408:

The topic under discussion was laceless shoes, and I haven't seen any of the hipsters in vintage 1970 velcro kicks. If they existed I'm sure they weren't ubiquitous.

But my point is that velcro shoes saturated the market in the late eighties and early nineties (with Speilberg predicting self-lacing shoes by 2015) for an entire generation who have grown up and yet still continue to wear laced shoes.

If we're going to abandon laces, we'd need for non-laced shoes to make them entirely redundant and have evidence that people are moving away from them in any meaningful way. They're not and they aren't (laces are strong, replaceable, easy to tie if you have better motor skills than a six-year-old, customizable by colour and pattern; velcro is easy but it wears out after time).

409:

This assumes a climate cool enough that sandals aren't the norm. In my country a large percentage of the population doesn't wear socks for 5-7 months every year.

410:

#92 - no mention of screen size, only of stand height

411:

In case nobody has mentioned it, one of the things that will not be here in 30 years are taxi drivers. Googles self driving car is the writing on the wall for them. Just hail a Johnnie Cab.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 16, 2012 9:03 AM.

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